Every day, waste is taken to landfills from all over the place, different industries, in large and small quantities. Materials such as those in construction and demolition waste, which comprise 50 percent of what ends up in landfills, haven't been part of the conversation when it comes to diversion efforts.
Waste360 sat down and talked with Richard Ludt, Director of Environmental Affairs/LEED AP at Interior Removal Specialist INC., ahead of WasteExpo to discuss how construction and demolition (C&D) waste is affecting the waste industry and what attendees can learn from the WasteExpo panel Ludt during the session, ‘C&D Recycling in a Circular Economy.’
EPA data from 2018 shows us some eye-opening numbers when it comes to the tons of waste taken to landfills broken up between municipal solid waste and C&D waste. The alarming part is 146 million tons of municipal solid waste has hit our landfills and 145 million tons of C&D waste showed up in the same location. Meaning, nearly 50 percent of the waste in landfills, for that year, was C&D waste. So, you’d think this is on everyone’s mind, right? Well, it’s not.
According to Ludt, this is one of the industry’s big issues when it comes to C&D.
“Here’s WasteExpo, pretty big conference, pretty big size, a lot of people speaking, right? I’m the only person speaking on construction and demolition debris. … It’s [C&D waste] pretty much 50 percent of what’s going into the landfill nationwide. And I’m the only person at the conference talking about it,” said Ludt.
The conversation around C&D waste, or the lack there of, is just one issue affecting the industry when it comes to recycling and diverting these materials. The next issue is the materials themselves and toxicity of what we’re throwing away.
“Something as simple as drywall is 98% gypsum, a naturally occurring mineral. … In a landfill, 4 pounds of gypsum will create one pound of hydrogen sulfide gas, which is nasty, toxic. … It’s heavier than air, it’s not something that’s necessarily going to escape the landfill, the problem is all of the new landfills have methane recovery systems to pull methane gas out. Well, this hydrogen sulfide gas can get into the methane recovery system, eat holes in those pipes, and now we’re venting methane because of the hydrogen sulfide gas.”
There are a multitude of challenges when it comes to C&D waste and how the Nation can be better about diverting this waste and getting with programs to recycle it. Ludt mentions that one if the biggest things companies can work on is stopping the waste up front in construction.
“Nearly 30 percent of all material delivered to a construction site can end up as waste. … We can do a whole lot better in the front end because 30% of brand-new material and have that end up as waste, it’s costing money, it’s costing landfill space.”
The real problems effecting the waste industry with C&D shouldn’t be ignored and the industry is in need of more voices like Ludt to speak out on the ongoing issues and how companies can take steps to improve, and that’s exactly what attendees can expect to learn at the C&D Recycling in a Circular Economy panel. While educational, Ludt also promises the panel will be fun.
“I insist on having fun. I hate dry presentations. Going from the film industry to the waste industry, if I can make this interesting to me, we can make this interesting to most everybody, but it’s a problem that needs to be discussed.”
Richard Ludt will be speaking during the C&D Recycling in a Circular Economy panel where he will be a leading voice in the conversation and educating attendees on the issues we face today in this specific sector. The panel will take place at WasteExpo 2023 on May 2 in New Orleans, LA.