Recovering vinyl from new construction and demolition projects
Vinyl siding continues to gain in popularity in the residential new construction market, primarily due to the benefits inherent in the material itself (such as light weight, low cost and ease of installation). The vinyl, construction and demolition industries are interested in the possible recovery of vinyl from both residential new construction and residential demolition projects. Can vinyl siding “off-cuts” from new construction be adequately collected and recycled? What can be done with the material after it has fulfilled its initial intended purpose? Can the material be recycled into new vinyl products?
Various pilot projects conducted or monitored by the Environment and Plastics Industry Council (EPIC) and the Vinyl Council of Canada (VCC) show that procedures exist that can be implemented during both residential new construction and demolition to ensure that the vinyl is of high enough quality to be of interest to vinyl recyclers. Better yet, this research shows that adherence to these procedures can result in financial savings.
A look back
In 2002, EPIC and the VCC oversaw a project that involved the demolition of 11 homes at the Canadian Armed Forces base in Base Borden, Ontario. The potential recovery of vinyl siding from this site was estimated to be 3,280 kilograms (7,220 pounds), along with the potential recovery of 110 vinyl windows. In total, 1,545 kilograms (3,400 pounds) of vinyl siding were recovered for recycling. Contamination was a significant factor in the low recovery rate and is an issue thoroughly addressed in the subsequent Best Practices Guide.
A second Base Borden demolition project took place a year later and involved the demolition of 149 homes clad in vinyl siding. More than 28.12 metric tonnes (MT) or 62,000 pounds of vinyl was available for capture from the site. In the end, the demolition contractor removed a total of 26.7 MT (58,710 pounds) or 94 per cent of vinyl siding. Of that amount, 4.2 MT (9,230 pounds) were resold directly by the contractor to the public for reuse (more could have been sold if the resale logistics had been set up differently). Another 22.5 MT (49,480 pounds) of captured vinyl siding were recycled. Of note is that the demolition contractor also recaptured 1,200 vinyl windows, which were resold directly to the public. Although the revenue generated from the sale of the vinyl siding destined for recycling amounted to $2,474, market conditions are such that if the material had been sold a few months later, the revenue would have doubled to just under $5,000. These amounts do not take into consideration the revenue generated from the sale of the vinyl siding or windows to the general public.
EPIC and the VCC also became involved in a new construction project in 2002. The project involved 30 houses in a relatively large housing development by Tribute Homes in Ajax, Ontario and ran for five to six weeks. The houses were of different models and styles, including both single-family homes and town homes with varying amounts of vinyl siding.
The potential recovery of vinyl siding from this project would be limited to the “off-cuts” which were estimated at between five to 10 per cent of the total vinyl siding ordered. This offered a potential amount of between 412 and 825 kilograms. In fact, a total of 680 kilograms of vinyl off-cuts was recovered from the new construction site by the end of the short, 30-house project. Based on the economics of handling the off-cuts from 136 homes, which would fill a 40 cubic yard waste container, the net cost of recovery and sale to a local vinyl recycler would have been $70, compared to between $550 and $625 if the material had been disposed of in a landfill.
Development of best practices
As a result of their involvement in these projects, EPIC and the VCC developed a Best Practices Guide. By adhering to the processes outlined therein, contractors will be able to maximize efficiencies and collect a high-quality stream of material that will generate better revenues from the recycler.
Common to both the new construction and demolition projects is the need to have a separate 40-cubic-yard bin for discarded vinyl that is properly labeled and locked. This will cut down on contamination from other materials. Also important to the success of any project is the need to have a confirmed local recycler for the vinyl materials and to be familiar with that recycler’s specifications (i.e., free from mud, nails, wood and other debris). Education of the work crew on the recovery procedures is another important element of success.
In the case of residential new construction projects, best practices call for the laborers to place the vinyl off-cuts in a box attached to the railing of the working platform. This makes it more accessible to them and easier to use. The off-cuts should then be either emptied into the dedicated bin or placed in the front yard of each home in a separate pile from other wastes (preferably on top of discarded corrugated cardboard). If placed in the front yard, this vinyl should be collected separately every one to three days and loaded by hand into a front-end loader, and placed in the dedicated bin.
In residential demolition projects, best practices identify an ice scraper or shingle remover as the most efficient method of removing the vinyl siding so that it can be recovered for reuse, which would attract the highest value. The scraper is slid underneath the siding from either the bottom or side and removal is relatively easy. Again, this vinyl should be placed in the front yard of each home in a separate pile from other wastes. It should also be collected separately every one to three days and loaded by hand into a front-end loader and placed in the dedicated bin. Information gleaned from the pilot projects showed that siding is easier to remove in warmer weather.
Accent on recycling
A 1999 study by Principia Partners reported that over 450 million kilograms of vinyl were recovered and recycled in 1997. Of that amount, 8.2 million kilograms (18 million pounds) was post-consumer vinyl. Windows and siding accounted for 18 per cent of the amount. These materials were recycled into new product such as vinyl pipe. Other products made from recycled vinyl include: packaging, siding, outdoor parking stops or bumpers, industrial flooring and recycled floor covering with recycled-content vinyl backing. Vinyl is also being recycled into consumer products such as cheque-book covers, notebook covers and plastic binders.
EPIC and the VCC will continue to share their findings within the construction industry to encourage the recycling of vinyl siding in both residential new construction and demolition projects. To this end, the two councils of the Canadian Plastics Industry Association offer their official Best Practices Guide free of charge at www.plastics.ca/epic and www.plastics.ca/vinyl.
The focus on recovering and recycling post-consumer vinyl siding is one that complements the VCC’s Environmental Management Program (EMP). This is a voluntary stewardship initiative that was launched in 2000. To date, some 80 per cent of the VCC membership — which represents approximately 70 per cent of the total Canadian vinyl industry — has embraced this program.
Based on the positive feedback, the EMP is now being launched industry-wide as a Sustainability Management Program (SMP). Molded from the EMP, the SMP is designed to modify corporate and industry culture so that the Canadian plastics industry becomes recognized as a willing partner in the quest toward environmental and social sustainability.
Marion Axmith is the Director General of the Vinyl Council of Canada (VCC). Cathy Cirko is the Vice President, Environment & Health of the
Canadian Plastics Industry Association (CPIA) and Director General of the Environment and Plastics Industry Council (EPIC). Both the VCC and EPIC are councils of the CPIA. Email Marion and Cathy at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org