A Recycling Guide for Building and Construction Plastics

When we first think of recycling, many assume it’s only for residential properties. While it is true that many people recycle within their homes, commercial industries can also recycle supplies, and plastic is one of the most common residential and commercial recyclable materials.

If you don’t know how to start recycling building and construction plastics, the following guide can help. While you may need to research local recycling laws in your area, this information can get you get started.

Confirm Your Building and Construction Plastics Are Recyclable

There are three common building and construction plastics: polyvinyl chloride (PVC), high density polyethylene (HDPE), and expanded polystyrene (EPS). Your construction site probably has sheets of PVC, PVC pipes, and other forms of PVC located throughout. Thankfully, this common plastic is easy to recycle whole or in scraps.

Plastic containers are often made from HDPE, and there is no shortage of containers on construction sites. This is a strong plastic, which makes it an excellent option for recycling. Some of the plastic lumber, rope, or bins you have on-site may already come from recycled HDPE.

EPS is technically recyclable since it contains petroleum. However, it’s mostly air, meaning you must send it for compression before anyone can recycle it. This extra transportation and labor can often outweigh the environmental benefits of recycling the material.

Create a Plan Based on the Waste Hierarchy

After confirming that the plastic at your construction site is recyclable, you can create your recycling plan. Many people use the term recycling to mean any type of waste reduction, reuse, or recovery, but that isn’t accurate. The waste hierarchy is important because it helps differentiate between reduction, reuse, recycling, recovery, treatment, and disposal, explaining which options to try first for the most economical and environmental benefits.

Reduction is often the best option. Examine your site and try to make a plan that will reduce plastic waste, such as ordering smaller batches of supplies. If you can’t reduce plastic waste, try to reuse it or donate plastic materials to someone else who can reuse it. If you or others can’t reuse the waste, then you should research local recycling options.

Partner With Waste Management Professionals

Each local area has different rules for recycling and waste management. You will need to research these rules wherever your site is so the recycling process can go smoothly.

Some busy contractors and construction sites don’t want to worry about learning new rules and altering workflows. If you want to save time but still recycle, partner with waste management professionals. These professionals already know the rules, can do the work, and will make recycling easy for you.

This guide for recycling building and construction plastics will help you and your construction site take better care of the environment. Keep the waste hierarchy in mind as you incorporate recycling and other environmentally friendly endeavors into your workflows to ensure you are always making the best decisions.

About Dan Coconate

Dan Coconate is a local Chicagoland freelance writer who has been in the industry since graduating from college in 2019. He currently lives in the Chicagoland area where he is pursuing his multiple interests in journalism.