NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis


May 27, 2004

States and localities are taking recycling to the next level as a way to save money and landfill space -- by reusing rubble from demolished buildings in new on-site construction, says the Wall Street Journal.

Faced with limited landfill space and increasing construction costs, state and local governments, along with developers, are using concrete, bricks and asphalt from old buildings that have been torn down on the site where the construction -- parking lots, roads and new buildings -- is taking place. For example:

  • The state of Virginia is constructing a new parking lot using 21,750 tons of concrete from the site's previously demolished laboratory buildings, while the remaining rubble is going to local recycling facilities; the predicted cost savings is $485,000.
  • Santa Clara, California's new baseball stadium will use about 25 percent of the 25,000 tons of concrete rubble from previous buildings on the site, and 1,250 tons of recycled asphalt will be used to pave the new parking lot; the expected cost savings is $60,000.
  • Rockefeller Corporation in New York is expected to save $300,000 in using rubble from the demolition of three industrial buildings on site to construct its new distribution center.

Recycling of older buildings does not produce the degree of cost savings compared with the recycling of newer buildings due to the additional sorting required of asbestos, lead paint and other contaminants, but even sorting costs 5 percent less than hauling and dumping the material.

Some states are introducing legislation designed to address rubble in landfills. Massachusetts is planning to ban all construction debris (such as metals, asphalt and brick) from landfills. Florida is considering legislation to increase the recycling of construction material. California currently requires that at least 50 percent of waste must be diverted from landfills to recycling. In most cases, rubble recycling appears to be a win-win proposal.

Source: Sheila Muto, "From Recycled Rubble Come Road, Parking Lots, Savings," Wall Street Journal, May 26, 2004.

For WSJ text (subscription required):,,SB108552832498421366,00.html


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