Fullerton City Council Approves Funding for Construction Debris Recycling Program

By Korin Chao, Emma Dapkus, and Cameron Blunt

On Nov. 4, the Fullerton City Council approved a budget transfer of $75,000 for the purpose of funding a construction debris recycling project, as discussed in Item 8 on the agenda for the city council meeting that took place on Oct. 15.

The construction industry is known to be responsible for 75% of the consumption of the planet’s natural resources, and in turn generates large amounts of waste through both leftover debris and unused materials, according to the EPA.

Usually following a construction project, leftover materials and debris are left at the construction site, awaiting removal by a third party that takes it to landfills and dumps, which is not the proper way to dispose of these materials. Normal landfills and dumps do not meet the standards for disposal of both everyday consumer waste alongside industrial and construction waste.

Photo via Waste Management

In Fullerton, the Water Transmission and Distribution Division has spent approximately $100,000 per year to dispose of asphalt, concrete and native soils generated by the repair of water main breaks and hauling to a local landfill for final disposal. In addition, the division spent approximately $45,000 per year on purchasing aggregate base for backfilling the trench when repairing the water main breaks.

The recycling and reusing of these materials, rather than disposal, would save the city money, which is why the debris recycling program was proposed. It would have less of a negative impact on the environment, as the raw resources that are used in construction materials can be used less, according to the EPA.

“I think that repurposing and recycling construction materials is a no-brainer. They can be used to build housing or help the homeless,” Fullerton resident Jared Stewart said.

A smaller scale solution would be having construction debris available to be used by residents in the area for projects of their own.

“When we work on kitchen counters we have a lot of the left over stone that is lying around in our warehouse,” Fullerton contractor Son Le said.

Contractors like Le can donate or sell their extra materials to stores such as ReStore, which is a donation center selling new and gently used furniture, appliances, home goods, building materials and more. On a larger scale however, more would need to be done in order to make an impact on the issue.

According to the EPA, recycling projects like the one proposed have a positive impact not only on the environment, but also on the community. These projects can reduce overall building project expenses by avoiding purchasing brand new materials, as well as the cost of disposal afterwards. Programs such as these also create jobs, another positive impact they have on the community.

Fortunately, California has become one of the foremost leading states in implementing sustainable construction recycling practices. Over the last 20 years, construction sites have grown exponentially more conscientious in how they reuse and recycle the plethora of materials that are utilized in creating commercial buildings.

“The two most important things on any jobsite are safety and recycling. Everything is about efficiency and everything must be recyclable,” said Clif Gazich, project manager for several commercial construction companies in Yorba Linda.

LEED, which stands for Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, is “the most widely used green building rating system in the world,” according to the U.S. Green Building Council, which works to regulate sustainability in the design, construction, and operation of buildings. There are four quality levels of certification: certified, silver, gold, and platinum that each correspond with how green a project is. This points system is based on a number of factors including what percentage of recycled materials were utilized, the distance materials are traveling to the project, and even how efficient employees are on the job.

Although the up-front costs of purchasing recycled materials can oftentimes be higher than simply acquiring new supplies, it saves an exponential amount of money later on, not to mention has considerable effects on reducing waste and pollution in the environment.

Cal State Fullerton’s new student housing facilities, built in 2017, were the first in the state to receive a platinum LEED certification. This achievement by the university in conjunction with the city’s newest plans to create more sustainable recycling practices are setting the city of Fullerton up for success.

“Every screw we use, everything we do, has to be approved. That is why California is the leader in every code for construction,” Gazich said. “And we are constantly making it better.”

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