A big part of building green is managing the job site’s “tailpipe.” What you throw out on a job can say an awful lot about overall project management, from your scopes of work to budgeting to job site practices.
Know what you throw
The first step in developing a waste management plan that will work is to do some job site waste audits. If the projects you do vary widely in type (gut rehab vs. new construction vs. weatherization vs. kitchens), do at least one of each type. Your waste audit can be based on weight or volume estimates; your choice is likely to depend on how you are charged for waste.
Assess opportunities for waste diversion
This is almost always the hardest step. No expert can tell you what outlets there are for your metals, cardboard, clean wood, or gypsum board. Often you need to check with your local green building program, local solid waste coordinator, or simply start working the yellow pages. Quite often, finding the first outlet or nugget of recycling or reuse information will result in a chain of connections for other materials or methods of waste diversion or recovery.
Develop a plan
Your overall waste management plan is likely to involve waste reduction, reuse, recycling, and safe disposal of both inert and hazardous or controlled wastes. Then pieces of the plan need to be incorporated into your individual trade contractor scopes of work or contracts. As you are developing this plan, remember that any waste generated on any of your projects essentially has your name on it, in terms of ultimate liability. If you think proper disposal or recycling seems expensive, consider the alternative of legal liability.
The best resources
Although a bit dated, I still think that these two guides are among the most straightforward and helpful with the three steps listed above:
Waste Management and Recovery: A Field Guide for Residential Remodelers (in two pdfs – www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/rrr/imr/cdm/pubs/remcover.pdf and www.epa.gov/osw/conserve/rrr/imr/cdm/pubs/remguide.pdf)
Also, see this previous ECP blog on Deconstruction.
Give and take
The Enterprise Green Communities criteria checklist requires a waste management plan that reduces waste by at least 25% (6.1). So let us know what your waste management details are or ask fellow GBAers to help out with your questions/problems—fire away!