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Large-scale commercial demolition projects and building teardowns often lend themselves to straightforward recycling opportunities for contractors. Bulky materials, such as concrete and wood, and high-value materials, such as metal, are systematically handpicked at sites and subsequently recycled. But what happens when a demolition contractor generates materials that are not easily processed by traditional recycling methods? That was the challenge facing the South Gate, Calif., Team. Interior Removal Specialist (IRS) Demo whereas its activity accelerated more than ten years ago. In search of a better way to divert indoor debris from landfills and comply with local recycling ordinances, the IRS team decided to start their own recycling business, Construction & Demolition Recycling Inc. (CDR Inc.), which received its first solid waste installation permit in 2007.

“We had no choice if we wanted to meet the demands of cities like Santa Monica and Pasadena which had a 50% diversion mandate for this demolition work at the time,” explains Richard Ludt, director of environmental affairs at the CDR. Inc. “The only thing we could do was start a facility that targeted the materials we were transporting. “

CDR Inc.’s seven-acre processing facility is run by Ludt and Vicky Herrera, the company executive and director of field operations. It is the only construction and demolition (C&D) facility in California that only recycles leasehold improvement demolition debris.

While the facility is licensed to take 3,000 tonnes per day (TPD) at full capacity, Ludt says the company currently only processes between 250 and 300 TPD. However, he expects that to change soon. CDR Inc. recently obtained transportation permits in several of its surrounding towns, which will allow it to better meet the C&D management needs of contractors in the region. With those permits in place, Ludt says the facility is poised to increase its incoming tonnage.

“We have broken away from being a recycling facility that serves only one customer,” says Ludt. “We have become a fully independent facility with our own dumpster rental, transport and collection operations. “

Although the composition of its incoming material flow fluctuates, CDR Inc. currently enjoys a diversion rate of 79%. The average distribution of the diversions of the installations are as follows: 27% drywall, 14% metals, 13% wood, 10% carpet, 9% concrete, 4% ceiling tiles and 1% each of cardboard and recovered / donated items. Only 21 percent of the outgoing material is waste or contaminated material.

To process its recyclable materials, CDR inc. relies on a portable sorting line from Quebec society Sherbrooke OEM and a trommel from Crystal Lake, Illinois Tuffman Equipment. Ludt says CDR Inc. takes a more rudimentary approach via manual sorting to avoid crushing incoming drywall, which makes up the largest percentage of its incoming material. However, Ludt says that CDR Inc. is currently evaluating the benefits of adding new equipment to better sort its incoming cardboard, plastics and glass.

Find markets

Like most C&D recyclers, Ludt says finding end markets is one of the company’s biggest challenges. To meet its needs, CDR inc. relies on a network of customers.

“We’re very lucky in California that the floor needs gypsum. We ship 1,200 tonnes of gypsum each month to farmers for [agriculture], which takes care of 30% of our incoming material on site, ”explains Ludt. “Most of the wood we get is used for energy recovery from waste, as almost everything is manufactured lumber, although we donate the small percentage of dimensional lumber that we get from public charges to various projects. beneficial reuse. We’re also very fortunate that a lot of the carpet we get is carpet tiles. Because we have the ability to keep it clean in our warehouse, we donate tens of thousands of square feet of carpet every year to non-profit organizations that reuse it in places like homeless shelters, centers for children and shelters for battered women. As for our fines, we had been using them as a cover for some time, then we cleaned them up enough that they [agricultural] uses for non-human food crops because they are mainly gypsum based coming out of our factory, but now they are mainly used for road stabilization. Even then, the fines represent less than 10 percent of our weight.

Beyond recycling and reusing materials, Ludt says CDR Inc. has a strong donation program in place. Due to the company’s focus on commercial interior work, CDR Inc. receives a lot of lightly used furniture from companies that are moving offices or undergoing renovations.

“When we get furniture that is still in good condition, we have a program to reuse it. We have a 100,000 square foot warehouse, so we put this furniture in the warehouse and make it available to any non-profit organization that wants it, ”Ludt said. “We currently donate between 30 and 60 tonnes of furniture and accessories each month. Everyone from dog rescue centers to the Church of Scientology and fire departments have access to our products. As long as it can go to someone who needs it, it would be criminal to let this very expensive furniture go to the landfill.

Accept the challenge

Specializing in recycling in interior demolition is not an easy vocation. Beyond the familiar challenges of finding end markets, the nature of the projects that generate the incoming materials for CDR Inc. often make source separation difficult.

“The biggest problem with commercial interior demolition when it comes to hijacking – and I don’t care who does the demo work – is the fact that most high-rise buildings in the California market don’t have any. only room for a dumpster in the loading dock, so you can’t do a lot of source separation, ”says Ludt. “It creates a challenge, because we all know the easiest way to keep materials clean is to have a separate box by material. But that doesn’t work in a commercial skyscraper. On a larger scale job it gets a little easier. But on a smaller scale job, if you are only doing 5,000 or 8,000 square feet of demonstration, then you have no choice but to put all the material in one box, and it is difficult to keep these materials clean enough to be diverted.

While Ludt recognizes that there are less difficult ways to make money, he says pushing the boundaries of what can be hijacked is part of the company’s DNA.

“In the end, we kind of made it difficult for ourselves to prove [diverting this material] can be done, ”says Ludt. “If the elimination is $ 35 to $ 40 per tonne, the treatment is $ 50 to $ 70 per tonne and you bring in $ 90 to $ 100 per tonne at the gate depending on which facility you are in.” , you can make it make financial sense, but it’s difficult when we run into people who have landfills or have more traditional C&D products.

“We have the advantage of being in California and there is legislation that imposes a certain level of recycling,” adds Ludt. “Going forward, the state, Los Angeles County, and the City of Los Angeles all have pretty aggressive zero waste plans that they’re aiming for, which puts us in a good position. If the state, county, and cities are serious about zero waste, then eventually everyone will have to start considering recycling commercial indoor debris the same way we do.

Gain recognition

Ludt says CDR Inc. doesn’t just strive to divert materials from landfills to comply with local regulations. The company does it because it is the right thing to do for the community and the environment.

“We could make more money by doing it more easily. We could lower the price of concrete going into our facilities and we could import tons and tons of concrete and lumber without having to deal with so much indoor debris and increase our profits, ”he says. “But one of the things we’re saying in court is that once you know the damage this product can do, you can’t ignore it. Once you know what the drywall or manufactured wood does when it enters the landfill and all of those chemicals turn into noxious gases or end up in the leachate that is only kept out of the water table by a plastic coating which has, at best, a 50 year guarantee: how can you knowingly put this material in a landfill? “

CDR Inc.’s efforts to change the way C&D materials are recycled have not gone unnoticed. According to Ludt, the company is currently the only C&D facility in Southern California to collect Recycling Certification Institute (RCI) certification, making it the only facility in the region eligible to provide the American Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED pilot point for installations with third party verification. In addition, the facility was recently recognized on the awards circuit. In the past six months alone, CDR Inc. has won the Sustainable Materials Management Award from Solid Waste Association of North America (SWANA), the recycler of the year award from the Recycling Construction & Demolition Association (CDRA), and the State of California’s Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award (GEELA), which is the state’s highest environmental honor.

“Within six months, we were recognized by the state, internationally through SWANA and called specifically within the C&D recycling industry with the CDRA award, so it’s kind of like the holy trinity in this industry – the word gets out, “says Ludt.” It’s nice to know someone understands because it gets frustrating to do it right and sometimes to feel like we’re the only ones, and I know that it isn’t – there are other good people out there. But to get that recognition that someone understands that what we are doing makes sense. It means a lot to us.

The author is the editor of Construction & Demolition Recycling magazine and can be contacted at