Website a one-stop reference for construction material recycling

Recycling construction materials is increasingly becoming a way for contractors to save money while doing less harm to the environment. Finding an organization that accepts construction materials such as drywall, plastic, shingles and concrete, however, can be a difficult process. The Construction Waste Management Database website aims to solve this problem.

The database contains information about companies that haul, collect and process recyclable debris from construction projects. Created in 2002 by the General Service Administration’s environmental strategies and safety division to promote responsible waste disposal, the database is a free online service for those trying to locate companies that recycle construction debris in their area.

Don Horn, sustainable design program expert for the GSA, helped create the database after becoming aware of contractors’ need for an easy-to-use clearinghouse of recycling organizations.

Prior to the database’s creation, contractors had to rely on community recycling guides. Horn said these guides often existed only in more urban areas, leaving rural contractors with nothing more than a phonebook as a reference for non-landfill material disposal.

“We were telling project managers to recycle, but didn’t know where to point them,” Horn said. “Many contractors had no idea some material could be taken in their area.”

To find a local recycling organization you enter into the site’s form your state, zip code and the type of materials to be disposed. Those nearest the specified location will be displayed along with all contact information, hours of operation, materials recycled, recycled-content products sold and other data.

The website also offers links to case studies, a review of federal mandates and model building codes. You can follow links to various green building topics and technologies as well.

Mark Wachal, co-owner of Recycled Materials Company, Inc. in Arvada, Colo., said although he hasn’t seen direct benefits from being listed in the database, it is helping to promote the recycling of construction materials. He said anything that gets more people to use recycled materials is beneficial to the industry.

Wachal’s company recycles asphalt, concrete and soil from land clearing in addition to selling recycled aggregate products to contractors in the Denver area.

GCC Inc. is another recycling company listed in the database. Based in Glen Allen, Va., it accepts an array of materials contractors use, including appliances, scrap wood and metal, carpet and plastic. GCC serves mid-size private and government contractors.

“It’s part of our advertising, and gets our name out there,” said Bill Grove, the company’s president. He discovered the database after running a Web search for recycling companies like his own.

Grove said although the construction material recycling industry has been stagnant in terms of growth, it needs to focus on awareness — something the database could provide.

“The database has been somewhat useful for us,” Grove said. “It certainly hasn’t hurt business.”

The database began with information compiled from other sources. This soon became problematic as that information became outdated. The site was redesigned shortly after its inception for better management.

Companies wishing to participate in the database can sign up for the service and input or update their own information. Those entries or updates are then sent to database project managers at Steven Winters Associates in Washington, D.C. for review.

Ellen Larson, a project manager for the database, was brought in to add new features and improve the search functions. She said although the site has received positive feedback, it still suffers from a lack of enough participating recycling organizations.

“Hopefully, it will become more populated,” Larson said. “It’s not as robust as we’d like it to be, but that’s just a matter of time.

“The only negative feedback we’ve received has been empty searches.”

Patrick Beeson can be contacted at pbeeson@randallpub.com.