Where we are, where we’re going

Columns - Editor’s Focus

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September 2, 2020

At Construction & Demolition Recycling, we’re always trying to take the temperature of the construction, demolition, recycling and waste markets to better understand where we are and where these sectors might be heading next.

Although change happens incrementally, it’s this slow evolution that allows these industries to meet the shifting demands of society.

At the beginning of the year, I wrote in my editor’s letter about how Laurence Fink, chairman and CEO of New York City-based investment firm BlackRock, issued a letter to both clients and CEOs stating that sustainability was going to be the new criteria for which companies would be judged in the coming years.

In this issue, we see several examples of how sustainability is not just an abstract talking point, but instead, something that is becoming baked into how companies do business.

In our cover story, Susan Angyal, regional CEO of North America for Environmental Resources Management (ERM), talks about how sustainability is the foundation on which all of its projects are built upon.

“We define our purpose as ‘shaping a sustainable future with the world’s leading organizations,’ which carries over to our tagline, ‘The Business of Sustainability,’” she says. “We operationalize these qualities by looking at all client engagements—including decommissioning, decontamination and demolition (DDD)—through the lens of sustainability. We are deliberate and purposeful in developing multifaceted solutions for our clients that address not only the conventional environmental and regulatory dimensions around a DDD project, but also bring complementary skills around both the social and governance elements, too.”

Angyal notes that this sustainability focus isn’t just lip service, it’s where ERM sees the biggest opportunities in the future, specifically with climate change and low-carbon initiatives prompting older power plants to be decommissioned.

And we don’t have to speculate on what this next generation of work might look like. In “Blackhawk down," we see what is possible when opportunity meets ingenuity thanks to North American Dismantling Corp.’s work converting a 100-year-old coal plant into a new 120,000-square-foot student center at Beloit College.

Want more evidence that sustainability is the next big thing? Read up regarding Republic Services’ blockbuster agreement to purchase 2,500 electric collection trucks from Phoenix-based manufacturer Nikola, making it the first waste company to commit to electrification on a large scale.

While the type of work, and how that work is done, may be changing in the C&D space due to innovation and social consciousness, it appears shifting priorities in favor of sustainability may end up creating new opportunities for both the contractors working on these projects and the recyclers tasked with diverting these materials from landfill.