Big push for a greener way to build – QNS.com

Big push for a greener way to build

By Gary Buiso

Construction sites across the city might soon be injected with a bit of “green,” if a state lawmaker has his way. If passed, environmentally friendly legislation introduced by Assemblymember William Colton will require contractors to recycle a percentage of the waste generated by their activities—or face stiff penalties. According to Colton, if the general public is compelled to recycle, so too should contractors, whose debris accounts for 60 percent of the city’s generated waste. “I believe this law is long overdue,” Colton said. “If you are tearing down a building—you are talking about a lot of tonnage [of debris],” he added. “We are talking about very substantial amounts of this stuff.” Colton’s bill would require contractors to recycle 25 percent of the waste generated by their construction and demolition during the first year of the law’s passage. Following the second year, that requirement would jump to 50 percent. Currently, the city has a voluntary construction and demolition recycling program. According to estimates Colton cited from the Department of Sanitation, less than half of the debris is being recycled. Development sites falling under the bill would be: construction of new residential buildings with four or more units; construction of new non-residential buildings, except those 4,000 square feet or less; demolition of residential buildings with four or more units that includes the demolition of at least one outside wall; and the demolition of non-residential buildings, except those 4,000 square feet or less. The bill requires contractors to document their recycling with the city’s Department of Buildings. It also includes fines of up to $5,000; additional penalties for each percentage point difference between what was supposed to be recycled and what was actually recycled; and the suspension of an offender’s general contractor’s license. “Rather than simply throwing it away, [recycling it] creates jobs and is good for the environment—and it can make money for the company,” the state lawmaker said. Michael Deane, the operations manger of sustainable construction for New York and Dallas-based Turner Construction, agreed. A supporter of Colton’s bill, Deane said his company already tries to make its projects as environmentally friendly as possible. “One of the most obvious ways is by recycling our construction waste instead of [sending it] to a landfill,” he said. Because land is scarce in New York City, recycling is cost efficient here, said Deane, a former Park Slope resident. “It’s actually beneficial—things they take off our site they can sell at a profit,” he said. Most profitable to recycle is any type of metal, particularly steel or copper. Other materials, like, concrete, wood, cardboard, brick, asphalt, roofing, and paper, can also be recycled. “In the New York market, we can actually recycle 75 percent of the material coming off a job,” Deane noted. In other parts of the country, where land is more available, this is not necessarily the case—it is cheaper to cart off debris to the dump, he noted. “In the long run, for the environment, that’s not a good strategy,” he said. As chair of the Assembly’s Commission on Solid Waste Management, Colton said he has long wrestled with the question, “How do we reduce the amount of solid waste?” The bill was introduced a few weeks ago, and Colton said he planned to now circulate it and is “entering discussions with interested parties,” all in the hopes of building a coalition of support so the measure passes the State Legislature. Recycling construction debris is not a new idea. Cities like Chicago, San Jose, Oakland, Seattle, Portland and others have already passed similar legislation, Colton said. “If this is already being done in other cities, it can be done here,” Colton predicted. “This has a lot of possibilities.”

More from Around New York