By: Melody Eve Ramos

The production of material waste is an unavoidable and persistent issue in the construction industry. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that total waste from construction-related projects was double that of municipal waste from households and businesses in 2018. There isn’t a universal solution yet, but many construction firms are finding inventive solutions to waste reduction, such as smart waste management, adaptive reuse, and recycling.

Smart waste management refers to any system that uses technology to make trash
collection more efficient, cost-effective, and environmentally friendly. Most of these
systems are equipped with monitoring technology that collects and tracks real-time
data, to help optimize waste collection and spur future innovation.

Some examples of smart waste management tools are:

  • Smart Waste Bins: These bins take the human error out of trash sorting. The
    bins use artificial intelligence-based object recognition to automatically sort
    recyclables into separate compartments. After sorting, the machine compresses
    the waste and monitors how full each bin is.
  • Pneumatic Waste Pipes: Pneumatic waste pipes are a solution that brings trash
    underground. This solution has pneumatic waste bins connected to a series of
    underground pipes, and trash would travel through the pipes to a waste collection
    plant where it can be sorted or hauled away. This system eliminates the need for
    traditional waste collection, reduces energy costs, and increases overall
  • Solar-Powered Trash Compactors: In an effort to increase collection efficiency,
    manufacturer Ecube Labs created a solar-powered trash compactor that can hold
    up to five times more than traditional trash bins. These machines compress trash
    as it accumulates to increase bin capacity, and they collect and transmit data on
    fill and collection times to help streamline the collection process.

Adaptive reuse is a trend that transforms structures no longer in use into something new. Benefits of adaptive reuse are:

  • Reduced Materials Usage: Reusing existing structures reduces the need to
    create new materials thus reducing the waste associated with new builds.
  • Avoiding Demolition: One of the most waste-producing aspects of construction
    is the demolition of old structures. Adaptive reuse completely skips this portion of
    the process and the resulting waste production.

While adaptive reuse is not always the perfect solution, it frequently offers a sustainable alternative to new construction.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), roughly 75% of the waste stream in the United States is recyclable, but only about 30% of recyclable materials actually get recycled. Waste will always be a part of the construction industry; it cannot be avoided, but proper recycling can help to reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills. Having a recycle bin for workers to toss materials will help to reduce the waste that your
team creates.

The following items, often used in construction, can be recycled:
● Metal
● Cardboard
● Paper
● Plastics
● Untreated wood
● Concrete
● Gravel
● Window glass
● Carpeting
● Drywall
● Asphalt
● Brick
● Roofing

Minimizing construction waste is a lofty pursuit but with advances in technology and dedication from those in the industry, it is achievable.

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