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County’s latest green ordinance requires recycling and reuse of demolition debris

By at July 31, 2012 | 12:37 pm | Print

County’s latest green ordinance  requires recycling and reuse of demolition debris
A groundbreaking ordinance approved July 24 by the Cook County Board of Commissioners will require the bulk of the region’s demolition debris to be recycled and reused instead of clogging up the county’s remaining landfill, President Preckwinkle announced today.

The Demolition Debris Diversion ordinance requires demolition contractors working in suburban and unincorporated Cook County to recycle 70% of their debris for all demolition projects. Residential properties must show 5 percent is being diverted for reuse. Only sheds and garages are excluded.

The ordinance, which goes into effect November 21, is part of President Toni Preckwinkle’s Sustainability Initiative, launched at the start of her administration with the goals of reducing energy consumption, decreasing pollution, and creating livable and sustainable communities. The recycling requirement also moves the county closer to achieving the ambitious zero waste goal set forth in the board-approved Solid Waste Plan Update.

“Reusing and recycling demolition debris is another important step toward building a greener Cook County,” President Preckwinkle said. “The benefits go beyond positive environmental impacts. This also creates jobs, stabilizes local economies and creates materials for construction, renovation and infrastructure building.”

Recycling five percent of demolition debris from about 30 houses could support at least one new retail center, with up to five jobs and 30 full-time deconstruction workers, according to Deborah Stone, director of the Department of Environmental Control.

The ordinance is directly enforceable since Environmental Control issues demolition permits for all buildings within suburban Cook County.  And while contractors currently salvage a significant percentage of materials from demolition sites, the reuse requirement is groundbreaking in the region. Reusing materials reduces the demand for new products made from virgin materials and saves 95 percent of the “stored energy” that already went into manufacturing the product, according to Stone.

“There’s been a significant market growth for deconstructed materials,” Stone said, with customers ranging from contractors, to multi-family building owners to homeowners on a budget.

“We know that greater public awareness will make reuse become more mainstream, as building owners learn of options.”

Over the next few months, the Department of Environmental Control will be working with business partners and industry groups to educate contractors and building owners about the requirements of the new ordinance, along with the many benefits.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found that nationally, 40 percent of what ends up in landfills is building waste. Cook County’s one remaining landfill has only a few years of capacity left. Only a few localities in the nation now require reuse, including Seattle Washington, Berkely, California and Boulder, Colorado.

For more on recycling demolition debris, click here for our Sustainability website

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Agencies Environmental

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