A lot goes into a new subdivision, a new home, or a renovation. But what about the bits and pieces that don’t make the cut? Everything from drywall to wood to scrap metal and assorted fixtures are sent to the dump in large quantities from most building sites. Add to that bricks and stone, appliances, windows and more from demolitions and renovations and it’s easy to see that the construction industry contributes to the landfill in a big way.

“Anywhere from 65 to 75 per cent of construction waste is recyclable, and maybe five per cent is being recycled,” says Michael Stevens, vice-president of operations for Smart Site Job Site Services and Management.

Michael and his brother Rob Stevens, president of Smart Site, are working to redirect this waste stream into recycling and reuse. They say changes to tipping fees at the landfill, as well as the always-changing world of recycling, should give a boost to the idea of watching waste more carefully on the construction site.

The main obstacle keeping builders and contractors from watching their waste, say the brothers, is the handling of waste on-site. “Double handling kills,” says Rob. “We get a lot of sites where either the trades aren’t buying into what you’re doing or you’re not thinking through the process. When you’ve got a lot of double handling you start to get mixing of the products, and it’s all downhill from there.”

If a builder doesn’t properly plan for recycling in advance, then workers end up tossing materials in the wrong bins or bins are not properly provided — and once materials are mixed (metal in with wood in with — worst of all — glass, and so on) it’s all over. Recycling a variety of materials can also mean trucks in and out of the site, which translates into higher costs, damage to the site and a larger carbon footprint.

Smart Site addresses these issues by sending only one truck in to pick up all the materials, and making it fast and easy for workers to sort the materials in the first place.

“For us it’s all about making sure that the path is easy and clear, because the trades are like water, they like the path of least resistance,” says Rob. “If you can make it easy, you get a much better buy-in.”

Does it cost more to be eco-friendly in the building industry? A little, but this cost will soon be offset somewhat by higher tipping fees at the dump. On one project the company has worked on, Calgary’s Heritage Pointe, a ranch was dismantled before the community went up. Smart Site recycled 88 per cent of the ranch buildings, sending only 85 tonnes of waste to the landfill, compared to the 600 tonnes that were kept out. All of this only cost the developer about 10 to 15 per cent more, which will soon be offset by tipping fees.

– Edited by Metro