WasteCap Helps Turn Waste Into Resources

By Mike Larson, Editor | September 28, 2010

WasteCap Wisconsin wants to show that good environmental stewardship and good economics can go hand in hand.

The statewide, nonprofit organization helps businesses drive costs out of their operations by helping them improve their solid-waste management.

The result is that less material goes into landfills, more material is reused and recycled, and businesses save money.

One of the places WasteCap's experience can really help is in the recycling of demolition and construction waste.

That's because five of the top 10 materials going into landfills are construction materials, with untreated wood being the number one contributor. Shingles rank third, and concrete, brick and scrap metal also rank high.

According to WasteCap, about one-third of the waste going into municipal landfills is construction debris.

So, who is WasteCap Wisconsin and how can it benefit contractors?

Eleven Years Of Experience Offers Expertise

WasteCap Wisconsin is a state-wide, nonprofit organization founded in 1996 to help improve the state's environment by encouraging, assisting and educating the business community in making better use of waste materials.

Modeled after successful WasteCap programs in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Nebraska, the Wisconsin organization is funded in part by members' dues, in part by government funding, and in part by fees for its services.

Executive Director Jenna Kunde says that WasteCap Wisconsin's service fees are almost always offset by savings realized by the user. "When you consider that landfill tipping fees run between $25 and $40 per ton, and that many waste materials can be sold or recycled, there are opportunities to save or even make money through reuse or recycling."

As one example, a Milwaukee hospital wanted to landfill concrete from two dozen homes it purchased and demolished to make room for an expansion. By recycling the concrete instead, it saved $78,000.

And a recently constructed power plant saved $500,000 by recycling its construction wastes.

Just as important as saving money, says Kunde, is the fact that reusing or recycling helps improve the environment and can benefit the community.

"WasteCap's experience," she says, "enables us to offer creative solutions. For example, one client was remodeling a dress shop and had a number of large mirrors to get rid of. We asked ourselves who might want large mirrors. It turned out that dance studios were eager to have them. What might have gone into landfills is now has new life in another venue."

WasteCap can also help find manufacturers' programs that recycle items like carpets and ceiling tiles.

Over the past 11 years, says Kunde, WasteCap Wisconsin has saved clients $3 billion in construction-waste costs and has helped find uses for 259 million pounds of waste that would have otherwise found its way to a landfill. That equals a 161-mile-long train of 30-yard dumpsters.

Many Forms Of Assistance Available

WasteCap Wisconsin's broad range of services encompasses everything from educating a company's management and employees about the benefits and methods of reuse and recycling to providing complete project management.

Project management can include drafting recycling and reuse specifications, writing and reviewing bids, developing a waste-management plan, providing technical assistance, documenting waste-saving results for LEED or other accreditation, and even obtaining exemptions from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources for recycling wood, drywall and other materials.

"Basically, we will do whatever we can to help a client," says Kunde.

In addition to helping individual clients, both members and non-members, the WasteCap Wisconsin staff also works to raise awareness about recycling and reuse among the state's general population, its regulatory agencies and its legislators.

Says Kunde, "WasteCap Wisconsin has made such a good impact during the past 11 years that we're very proud of what we've accomplished so far. The organization is continuing to grow and improve, and as we continue to add members, we'll be able to have an even greater impact."

For more information about WasteCap Wisconsin, visit wastecapwi.org.