How do I dispose of my construction waste without bruising my environmental conscience?

Green Demolition and Material Recovery Facilities

Green demolition, aka green deconstruction, is a booming industry, even in our sagging economy. Going the green route keeps around 80 percent of construction waste out of a landfill, but also costs more than your average demolition job -- by about $10,000. Most of these additional charges go to labor because carefully removing items takes longer than going in with a bulldozer. But you can get some of this money back. You'll save on landfill charges and get tax credits for material donations.

Green demolition is also necessary for LEED Certification, which is a system of standards developed by the United States Green Building Council to promote environmentally sustainable construction. LEED Certification gives added value to a construction project, and credits are given to a new project that diverts at least half of its construction waste from landfills.

Each state has different laws for how materials need to be separated and dealt with. For example, Connecticut law states that cardboard and scrap metal must be separated from other construction waste. Onsite separation involves creating separate bins for different materials so they can be easily taken to the correct facilities. The benefit is that the materials are usually in better shape when they arrive at the processing facility, and are therefore worth more when they're resold.

The alternative to onsite separation is taking the waste to facilities that accept bulk deliveries. These plants have the ability to sort multiple materials, so construction sites can just use one big trash container. There's an additional charge for sorting, but this money can be recouped in the time it saves on the construction site.

Green demolition is becoming mandatory in cities like San Diego, Calif. Developers have to pay a hefty deposit when they file for a permit, and they'll only get their deposit back if they can prove that at least 50 percent of their construction waste has been recycled or reused.

Once companies work out their methods and train their crews, the cost differences are minimized between traditional demolition and deconstruction. In our next section, we'll talk about what materials can be recycled.