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Beyond Waste

Making Green Building Practices Mainstream

Construction and Demolition Debris

This indicator tracks the amount of construction and demolition (C&D) debris that is generated and recycled or diverted from disposal annually in Washington.

C&D debris includes:

  • Materials from the construction, renovation, repair, and demolition of houses and large building structures.
  • Materials from infrastructure such as roads, bridges, piers, and dams.

Examples of C&D materials include concrete, asphalt, wood, gypsum, fixtures, roofing, lumber, metals, plastic, pipe, cardboard, carpet and carpet pad, and land-clearing debris. These materials made up about 35 percent of all wastes generated in 2012. Most C&D debris could be diverted from landfills and reused, made into new building products or used as fuel. These wastes have an impact on the environment, economy, and greenhouse gases, and are tracked as a measure of the success of the green building initiative.

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Construction and Demolition Debris Data

The amount of C&D debris generated in Washington State increased steadily between 2003 and 2006. It held steady in 2007 and decreased slightly in 2008 and 2009, likely in connection with the recession. In 2010 the amount of C&D disposed increased with residents and businesses in Washington generating 6.5 million tons of C&D debris, up more than 600 thousand tons from 5.8 million tons in 2009. In 2011 and 2012 the amount of C&D disposed and recycled decreased steadily to pre-2005 levels.

The overall trend for recycling C&D debris increased over the time span of this graph from 2.4 million tons in 2003, to 3.3 million tons in 2012. While there have been slight decreases from 2006 to 2008, and again in 2011 and 2012, recycling of C&D debris reached a high of 3.9 million tons in 2010.

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Construction and Demolition Debris Data

The annual percentage of C&D materials recycled and diverted from disposal is shown above to provide a perspective on the rate at which these materials are being recycled in Washington. From 2003 to 2008, the recycling rate for C&D material was generally declining, and in 2009 it started to increase again. A major factor in the increase of the C&D materials diversion rate was a decline in the amount of construction and demolition materials and inert material (including soil, rock, and gravel) reported disposed in landfills. In 2012, 59 percent of the construction and demolition material was recycled and diverted.

This indicator has approximately a 1.5-year time lag due to the process of gathering, compiling, and analyzing data and distributing information to stakeholders.

What are the benefits of reducing the amount of C&D material generated and increasing C&D recycling?

  • Conserves valuable resources.
  • Saves money.
  • Saves energy.
  • Reduces greenhouse gas emissions and other pollutants.
  • Conserves landfill space.

What is being done to decrease C&D material generated and increase recycling in Washington?

Ecology and other organizations are:

  • Providing technical assistance to local governments working on construction and demolition waste issues.
  • Coordinating with local health jurisdictions to inspect C&D material recovery facilities to ensure they are operated in a manner that protects human health and the environment and in compliance with solid waste regulations.
  • Verifying that all known transporters covered under WAC 173-345 are appropriately registered and permitted to address sham recycling.
  • Developing new uses and markets for recycled materials, such as paint and carpet.
  • Providing technical assistance to developers and builders on materials selection and recycling.
  • Partnering with local, regional, and national organizations and governments to promote industry education of building material reuse and C&D recycling.
  • Partnering with regional organizations to build demand for residential and commercial green building projects.

Related Indicators

Click on an image below to go to that related indicator.

Green Building Market Share

Commercial Green Building

Residential Green Building


Want more information on construction and demolition debris and green building in Washington?

For more information, contact Gretchen Newman, 360-407-6097.

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This page last updated November 2014       


Case Study:

Assessing Chemicals in Roof Runoff

Have you ever wondered what your roof may leach into the environment when it rains?

The Puget Sound Toxics Loading Assessment (PSTLA) report identified elevated levels of metals in the Puget Sound Basin that are toxic to fish and other aquatic life. Some can also adversely affect human health. The PSTLA report identified roofing materials as a potential source of these metals and, possibly other toxic substances such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and phthalate plasticizers. The first step was to establish whether roofing materials used in the Puget Sound region were leaching toxics given our unique precipitation patterns and rain acidity.

Ecology began the Roofing Materials Assessment in collaboration with roofing industry associations and manufacturers. This study is funded through a grant from the National Estuary Program with additional funding provided by the Asphalt Roofing Manufactures Association for a second phase of the study.

This study provides initial data needed to evaluate whether roofing materials are a source of toxic chemicals in the Puget Sound. The results of the first round of sampling have been completed and the second round of sampling is being completed during the winter of 2013/2014.

Toxic Chemicals in Roof Runoff