For a variety of facilities, Fall is often the time for planning a “green” building or “green renovation.” And though there are some other certifications out there, the LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certification program by the U.S. Green Building Council is by far the most widely recognized. So how does recycling factor into your green building plans? How else can recycling help accumulate points? How much work is it?
For anyone unfamiliar with LEED, it works by accumulating points. The more points you accumulate, the higher the rating you receive. It’s kind of like the days in which some of us used to accumulate tickets in the arcade playing skee ball – the more you get, the better the prize. If you just stared in confusion at that last sentence, Google it. The arcade was a place that fossils like me used to go to play video games, skee ball, and air hockey before everyone had their own X-box or Wii. While LEED points may not get you a giant stuffed animal panda, they may help your institution garner recognition for your broader sustainability initiatives.
Generally all of the different LEED certifications are going to look for you to recycle or reduce the wastes generated during the project (typically called “construction & demolition wastes” or “C&D wastes”). The more C&D waste you can divert from the landfill, the more points you can accumulate. I’m going to skim over the C&D recycling side of this, but if you are unsure how to begin recycling C&D materials, I encourage you to start by visiting the Construction Materials Recycling Association’s website.
Once you have made it through the building and renovation phase of the project, you also have the furnishing, occupancy, and operation phase. Recycling also plays a role here.
Most of the various LEED certifications have minimum requirements. These MR criteria don’t get you actual points, but you can’t get LEED certification without them. Think of them as the quarters to feed the skee ball machine. Having quarters won’t affect your final score or win you extra tickets, but without quarters you can’t even play.
Having a recycling program for occupants is typically a MR requirement for LEED certifications. Certain certifications have additional or slightly different requirements. For example, if you are going for LEED certification for the operation of your existing building, there is a Materials and Resources section of that certification. Prerequisite 1 of that section has requirements to identify opportunities for waste reduction and diversion, and operate a waste reduction policy that includes collection station equipment and recycling education. Having the proper recycling bins will help you to design and implement that plan.
So how does recycling factor into your green building plans?There are several places to accumulate points. One of the first things to do is figure out what type of LEED certification you are going for. LEED has evolved into many different types of certifications depending on what type of project you are working on (new construction, renovations to an existing building, homes, etc.). The general points concept is the same, but the specific criteria are all a little different.
How else can recycling help accumulate points?Another place you may be able to accumulate points is in recycled content categories. Many of the LEED categories have a section in which you can accumulate points for incorporating recycled-content materials into your project. One set of points is typically for structural building materials that have recycled content. Another is for non-structural materials. You won’t get specific points for recycled-content recycling bins, but you do get points for the total amount of non-structural recycled-content material you use. Generally it is an aggregated score that includes all materials (including furnishings) and rewards you for the total percentage thereof that has recycled content. Some of your smaller deskside recycling bins may not qualify but larger site-furnishings style bins may qualify if you are including other furnishings.
How much work is it?
Deciding to build or renovate a “green” building is an involved process. Having that project certified by a third-party verification process like LEED can mean a lot of tracking. But if you undertake that process, don’t forget about recycling opportunities. The extra points that you get might mean the difference between getting the top-shelf prize that you want, or getting the half-expired pack of Smarties that the arcade owner used to keep on the bottom shelf for people who didn’t have enough tickets.
This article was written by Roger Guzowkski, a veteran of the recycling industry with over 20 years of experience managing award-winning recycling programs. Roger has been actively involved with a variety of recycling organizations including MassRecycle, the California Resource Recovery Association, the Northeast Resource Recovery Association, and the National Recycling Coalition.Full content was originally posted here on the Max·R Recycle blog. For whitepapers and other resources available for download on recycling best practices visit their Max·Resources page.