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Prevalence of Common Materials on the Project Site Part 2

In part one of this two-part series, the Birmingham contractor attorney, at Cotney Construction Law discussed how local priorities and economic trends in an area can act as predictors for the types of materials found in construction and demolition waste. We also covered various waste classifications including:

  • Destined for other facilities
  • Usually destined for reuse
  • Nuisance materials

Now, we will break down the prevalence of common materials on the project site, focusing on ferrous and non-ferrous metal, cardboard and paper, plastic, wood, concrete, gravel and aggregate, window glass, carpeting, disposal as refuse, drywall, and asphalt roofing.

Ferrous and Non-ferrous Metal

Ferrous and non-ferrous metal accounted for approximately 9 percent of project site materials. Within the construction and demolition waste stream, these metals are considered some of the most valuable materials. Hydraulic excavating equipment is utilized to extract ferrous metals from chunks of concrete, but electromagnets and manual pickup are also common collection methods. An Eddy current separator, a type of reverse magnet, is utilized for collecting non-ferrous metals.

Cardboard and Paper

Roughly 3 percent of construction and demolition debris waste is cardboard and paper. While highly valuable as recyclable materials, construction site cardboard and paper is considered less valuable than curbside cardboard, which is oftentimes less contaminated by water and dust.


Another 1 percent of construction and demolition waste are plastics including polyethylene terephthalate (PET), high-density polyethylene (HDPE), polyvinyl chloride (PVC), low-density polyethylene (PE-LD), polypropylene (PP), and polystyrene (PS). PET and HDPE are considered the most valuable. There are countless uses for plastic waste, but some of these uses can have a negative effect on the environment.


Both useful and plentiful, approximately 30 percent of construction and demolition waste is wood. Not only can it be recycled and reused, it can also be transformed into feedstock for biomass and combined heat and power plants.


Leftover concrete can be crushed, cleansed of embedded metals, and then recycled. Always separate concrete that has been painted or in some way contaminated to avoid releasing detrimental chemicals into the waste stream.

Gravel and Aggregate

Trommel screens can be utilized in conjunction with an inclined chain belt to group various forms of gravel and aggregate. These types of materials make up about 20 percent of construction site refuse.


In addition to the materials mentioned above, other commonly found waste materials on the project site include:

  • Disposal As Refuse (5 percent): waste that reaches the end of the sortline belt.
  • Window Glass (.15 percent): nuisance material with marginal value. Difficult to transport and often relegated to a landfill.
  • Carpeting (.85 percent): diverting carpeting waste away from landfills can greatly reduce greenhouse gas emissions inherent to the production of new carpet.
  • Drywall (3 percent): completely recyclable, but gypsum board is a nuisance material that produces a lot of dust making collection undesirable and limiting the value of other recyclable materials in close proximity.
  • Asphalt Roofing (5 percent): can be remelted into asphalt paving applications after being grounded, sized, and graded.

Do you know the value of your construction and demolition waste? Are you doing everything you can to minimize the amount of waste-related pollution being sourced from your project sites? If you aren’t diligent, you could be targeted by government agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Consult a Birmingham contractor attorney, if you have any questions about construction waste and EPA compliance.

If you would like to speak with one of our Birmingham contractor attorneys, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.