Past is prologue

Columns - Editor’s Focus

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July 12, 2019

In the spring of 1999, the Recycling Today Media Group launched C&D Recycler. The quarterly publication was an effort to tap into the evolving business of construction and demolition (C&D) materials management at a time when an increasing number of contractors began recycling materials generated at their worksites to avoid landfill tipping fees.

As the industry continued to evolve, so too did the publication. C&D Recycler soon increased its frequency to six times a year and was renamed Construction & Demolition Recycling in November/December of 2003 to allow for a broader focus on all the different areas of C&D generation and processing.

Two decades after that first magazine hit mailboxes, we’re proud to bring you our 20th anniversary issue.

Looking back on our inaugural issue, it’s clear how some of the major challenges affecting contractors and recyclers at the dawn of the new millennium have continued to pervade the recycling sector.

In the editor’s letter of our first issue, then-editor Brian Taylor writes: “Metals generated at C&D sites have been recovered for some time, with scrap dealers happy to welcome steel beams, copper piping and aluminum siding into their yards. In an increasing number of urban areas, concrete crushing has become a viable enterprise. … In most other C&D debris streams, the end market situation is far less stable. Recyclers of waste wood, asphalt shingles, drywall and other materials have made gains in the 1990s, but the progress has been far from linear.

“What happens next? Will market forces push the recycling of C&D debris to become an established way of doing business in both the construction and demolition industries? Will state and local legislatures try to push the industry forward with mandates and solid waste diversion goals? Or will landfilling remain a cost-effective way for many contractors to deal with their debris steams? There are plenty of interested parties anxious to see how these questions will be answered over the next several decades.”

In this issue’s cover story, we spoke with a panel of industry leaders about how the C&D recycling market has changed since Taylor first wrote that letter. While new developments, like advanced sorting technologies and a more widespread acceptance of zero-waste principles, have benefitted market participants in the intervening years, some of the challenges pertaining to lack of end markets and regulatory burdens continue to present challenges.

Despite the uncertainties, the jury has spoken on the question of whether “market forces [will] push the recycling of C&D debris to become an established way of doing business.” Now more than ever, conscientious C&D recycling is an established facet of the building and demo industries. I don’t know what the next 20 years holds, but as the desire to divert material inevitably grows louder in the future, it’s clear that C&D recyclers are going to be the ones well-positioned to answer the call.

Check out “Building an industry: The evolution of C&D recycling” here to see what industry leaders are saying about the C&D recycling market.