Recycling is the process of turning used materials into new, useful materials. Recycling reduces waste in landfills, which reduces both air and water pollution.

Recycling reduces waste in landfills, which reduces both air and water pollution. It also prevents harvesting of raw virgin materials, which saves energy, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and prevents pollution.

According to the U.S. EPA, Americans recycled or composted 34.1% of waste in 2010. Paper, which is easily recyclable, makes up 30% of the waste that Americans throw away annually, which is more than any other material.

In 2010, Americans recycled 63% of paper waste, 8% of plastics, and 27% of glass. Generally, paper, plastic and glass can be easily recycled curb-side, so these rates could be much improved.

Free LEED Exam PreperationLEED and Recycling

With the intent of reducing waste in landfills, LEED requires on-site recycling receptacles via Materials and Resources (MR) Prerequisite 1, Storage and Collection of Recyclables. It requires that at a minimum, metal, glass, paper, plastic and cardboard must be recycled.

LEED suggests the following design considerations:

1. Signage to discourage contamination
2. Designate a recycling area that is appropriately sized and easily accessible
3. Security for high value materials
4. Protection from the elements

LEED also awards points for diverting construction waste from landfills in MR Credit 2, Construction Waste Management. It awards points for recycling, reusing or donating construction and demolition debris.

Recyclable Materials

There are many types of recyclable materials, including plastic, glass, electronics (e-waste), metals, paper, cardboard, automotive parts, batteries, light bulbs, garden and vegetable waste, construction debris, and textiles. While some materials can simply be recycled via curbside pickup, some other materials have a specific procedure for recycling, which may depend on your location.

The following are examples of types of building materials that require special recycling procedures. For procedures of other types of materials, see Earth 911's website.

Carpet Recycling

Every year in America, 5 billion pounds of carpet waste are sent to the landfill, which makes up 3.5% of total U.S. waste. The U.S. EPA estimates that only 3.8% of carpets were recycled in 2002.
In response to these statistics, carpet manufacturers signed the National Carpet Recycling Agreement in 2002. The signees agreed to boost recycling rates to 20-25% and reuse rates to 3-5% by 2012.

The agreement sparked the creation of the Carpet America Recovery Effort (CARE), which helps to find market-based solutions for carpet recycling and reuse. The organization’s members are carpet recycling organizations who share this goal.

The following carpet recycling companies offer pickup and/or dropoff services:

1. CarpetCycle

CarpetCycle is based in Dover, New Jersey, but also has a branch in Canada. The NJ-based company collects carpet in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Connecticut.

CarpetCycle offers carpet recycling for residential and commercial projects:

1) Rip Up Contracting: The company will send staff to the site to rip up and collect the used carpeting.
2) Pick Up Services: CarpetCycle will pick up carpeting that has already been ripped up.
3) Drop Off Services: Customers can drop off their residential carpets for recycling at the company’s headquarters in Elizabeth, New Jersey.
4) Ceiling Tile Services: In addition to carpet recycling, CarpetCycle has a ceiling tile recycling program. CarpetCycle can tear down and/or pick up old ceiling materials, which can be reused to manufacture new acoustical ceilings.

The company’s services are 35-60% less expensive than conventional collection and disposal, which usually costs $80-120 per ton. Typically, the trailer fee for pickup service is $50/ton of carpet.

2. The Carpet Recyclers

The Carpet Recyclers are based in La Mirada, California, has a zero-waste-to-landfill recycling facility, which is the first of its kind. The company collects carpet tile and residential and commercial broadloom carpet for recycling. Their services extend to parts of the West Coast. The Carpet Recyclers' services are often cheaper than landfill ripping fees.

The company offers both trailer and drop off service. Trailer service includes the company leaving one of their trailers at your project site, and then swapping it out when full. The trailers are either 28 or 53 feet long, and the cost is based on a flat rate per trailer load. For drop off services, the carpet can be taken to one of the company's locations in Northern or Southern California, or at one of its independent Carpet Collector locations.

Residential carpet pickup truck or van drop off costs $25/load. Larger commercial loads are charged on a per ton basis.

Milwaukee-based CLEAR has drop-off locations for recycling residential carpets in 17 states, including Illinois, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, and Ohio. Prices vary by location, but some places will take it for no charge.

Copper Scrap Recycling

Copper scrap is a valuable material that many companies will pay you to recycle. According to eHow, copper scrap has fluctuated between $1 and $4.50 in recent history.

Copper scrap can be found in household fittings (i.e. pipes), appliances (i.e. microwaves and dryers), electrical wiring, automobiles, and copper household goods. Be careful when recovering copper scrap from your home or automobile. For example, removing copper from an air conditioner could leak toxic gasses.

To recycle your copper scrap, simply locate a copper scrap recycling facility. You may want to shop around for a recycling facility that will give you the best price for your copper. Then, you can drop off the copper scrap at the facility and redeem your money.


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