by Bill Moore, Brandenburg Industries
Several years ago, the National Demolition Association did a survey of the general public and found that most people believed that all of the debris from demolition jobs went to landfills. Nothing could be further from the truth; demolition contractors recycled long before it became popular. When demolition contractors recycle, they save the cost of the loader and operator, the truck and driver, diesel fuel, and of course dump fees. The more a contractor recycles, the more competitive they can be. . .lowering the cost of the unused asset.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has estimated that America generates over 135 million tons of construction and demolition debris annually, with 70% of this coming from demolition. Many major cities have mandated that at least 50% of materials from demolition jobs be diverted from landfills. The state of California requires 65% of construction waste be diverted and European cities have even tighter restrictions.

Also, the U.S. Green Building Council’s (US GBC) Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) program gives project credit for diversion of construction, demolition, and land clearing debris from disposal in landfills.


When an entire facility is decommissioned, there is often plenty of value in the old building besides the surplus process equipment. IR managers should be aware that many building materials from a facility being demolished can be salvaged for re-use or recycled, potentially lowering the net cost of demolition.


Architectural Salvage:
Unique architectural details from older buildings can command high prices. Such items as industrial light fixtures, unique woodwork, doors, windows, terra cotta moldings, railings, columns, statues, and decorative wrought iron are always in demand.

Vintage Factory Equipment: Don’t just assume that old cart or metal storage bin is only good for scrap! There isa growing market for repurposing industrial machinery and surplus as functional design for the home, office and retail settings.

Reclaimed Flooring:
The old wood flooring occasionally still found in old factories and mills built in the late 1900’s has significant value and obviously a limited supply. Rarely-found wood such as true

heart pine is very valuable in any size. To actually be heart pine, the board must contain the heartwood of the tree.
 Asphalt: Used asphalt can be added when making new asphalt material or can be crushed and used for roadways, parking lots, etc.
Bricks: Because mortar can be removed, smooth “common” bricks can be cleaned and re-used in new construction. Face bricks, concrete blocks, etc, can be crushed and used as fill material.

Besides the obvious re-use of carpeting as a floor covering, carpet mills will often accept used carpeting as material to be added to new carpeting and padding.

It is estimated that over 100 million tons of concrete are recycled annually in the United States. The concrete can be crushed to any size and used in many applications where virgin rock is used, such as for road bed material, parking lots, to fill excavations and basements, etc. In some applications, a small percentage of used concrete can also be added to new concrete. All reinforcing steel is removed during the crushing process and sold to steel mills to be re-melted into new steel.

Fly Ash: Fly ash from power plants is often added to concrete to improve performance. Lime extracted from fly ash is also used to make new gypsum board.
Glass: Glass can be crushed and recycled into new glass or even carefully removed and used in new construction.

Scrap drywall (gypsum board) can be used in the production of new drywall, can be added in the production of cement, and can be applied to soil and crops to improve drainage and plant growth. It can also be used as a major ingredient in fertilizer products and as an additive to composting operations.

Soaring scrap prices have made all scrap metal very desirable. Probably ninety-nine percent of metal is recycled from demolition jobs. It is not uncommon for a demo contractor to do demolition

work as an even trade for the salvaged metals or even do the wrecking work and pay the customer. In addition to common ferrous and non-ferrous scrap, equipment such as heat exchangers and boilers may contain more valuable metals such as titanium or alloys such as cupronickel or inconel.

Asphalt shingles can be used in hot mix asphalt, cold patch, as an ingredient in the production of new shingles or can be burned as fuel. Slate and cedar shingles in good condition can be re-used for roofing.

Dimensional lumber larger than 6″x6″ can be sold for new timber-frame construction. Although not usually economically feasible, smaller sizes of lumber can be cleaned and used for new construction. Wood can also be ground up and made into wood pellets for fuel, or used as animal bedding, landscape mulch and as road bed material or cover in landfills.
Reprinted from ASSET 2.0, the Investment Recovery Business Journal, Vol. 6, 2008

© The Investment Recovery Association