Across the Lower Mainland, about 2,500 single family homes are demolished every year, each averaging 50 tonnes of wood waste. Municipal bylaws that require demolition recycling are helping keep that wood available as a resource and build the green economy.
It’s a reality of our growing region that when a new house is being built, it usually means that an old one has been torn down. And that creates a lot of waste.
Karen Storry, Metro Vancouver Senior Projects Engineer confirms this fact. “Construction and demolition waste is the biggest portion of the region’s waste stream,” she said. “Currently we estimate about 1.6 million tonnes is generated each year. Seventy per cent of it is recycled, however that still amounts to approximately 400,000 tonnes going to disposal.”
Metro Vancouver has been exploring several ways to chip away at wood waste, which represents at least half of all construction and demolition waste. One approach has been to support member municipalities at the permits and bylaws stage through the development of a model bylaw.
Richmond’s Mayor, Malcolm Brodie says the City of Richmond is one of the first to develop a bylaw based on the template. “We have introduced a bylaw that says if you are going to demolish a single family dwelling then you have to recycle 70 per cent of the materials.”
The bylaw is enabled by way of a refundable $2 a square foot fee based on the size of the home that’s being torn down. Suzanne Bycraft, Environmental Services Manager with the City of Richmond explains how the incentive works. “Once the building has been demolished, the demolition contractors will need to provide us with weigh scale tickets so we can determine how much actually went to recycling facilities and how much was disposed,” she said. “Under our bylaw, if they meet 70 per cent of recycling of all the materials, they will get 100 per cent of their $2 a square foot fee back.”
Almost all recycled wood is brought to construction recycling facilities where different materials are separated out. “Recycled wood is typically going to a pulp and paper mill or to a local cement kiln and these large industrial facilities use it as an alternative fuel source to power their process,” said Karen Storry.
Alongside this bulk scale approach to diverting waste is research into diversified markets, including those related to home de-construction, where wood and other building materials are carefully removed by hand. The re-claimed wood supports a green economy, as it can be used in millwork, finishes and flooring.
Mayor Brodie thinks it will be very effective in diverting materials away from the landfill. “In Richmond we’ll be able to take about 40 thousand tonnes out of the waste stream using this model bylaw each year,” he said. “It’s a very significant reduction…I’m hopeful that all the cities will be taking this approach in the very near future.”
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