March 10, 2010

Old materials to get new life


— By

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Gordon Chibroski

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Gordon Chibroski

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Staff Writer

Demolition crews equipped with huge backhoes are making quick work of the old Baxter Elementary School on Ocean Avenue, ripping down cinder block walls and crunching lumber like toothpicks.

But this is more than a simple tear-down. It's also a massive recycling project.

The builder hired to demolish the Baxter school and replace it with the new Ocean Avenue Elementary School plans to recycle at least 75 percent of the demolition debris, as well as 75 percent of the waste generated during the construction phase.

It's the latest high-profile example of how Maine builders, eager to reduce costs and meet green building standards, are keeping more construction and demolition debris out of landfills and incinerators.

''It's gotten to the point now where it's lucrative to do this,'' said Scott Tompkins, director of business development for

Ledgewood Construction of South Portland, general contractor for the new school.

Ledgewood's subcontractors are making use of all kinds of demolition debris, from the concrete that will be crushed into gravel to tree stumps that were ground up and used for erosion control on the site.

The new $19 million school, scheduled to open in 2011, will be far more energy-efficient and earth-friendly. It is expected to qualify for a Silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design certification.

LEED certification is now a common goal for new public buildings, as well as large commercial projects. Along with energy efficiency and pollution controls, certification requires that builders reuse or recycle construction and demolition wastes.

When Ledgewood built Portland's East End Community School in 2006, for example, it diverted 266 tons of demolition and construction wastes from landfills, Tompkins said.

The contractors that tore down the old Cony High School in Augusta and replaced it with a new Platinum LEED-certified Hannaford Supermarket recycled 96 percent of the demolition debris and nearly all of the construction wastes, according to Hannaford Bros. Co.

Although the LEED projects are leading the trend, recycling makes financial sense for any demolition, said Bill Bennett, contractor relations manager for Pine Tree Waste in Scarborough. The company is handling much of the waste for the Ocean Avenue project.

''If there's going to be a demolition project involved, they're going to search out and recycle products because it makes sense,'' Bennett said. ''We're going to be recycling metal, wood, gypsum, paper, cardboard. The disposal cost on these materials is cheaper than shipping it to a landfill.''

Demolition crews with Gorham Sand and Gravel are expected to have the 56-year-old Baxter school leveled by the weekend. As the building is coming down, several separate piles of debris are growing -- one for scrap metal, one for concrete and one for wood and other wastes.

A row of dumpsters sits quietly at the edge of the demolition site for asbestos-coated debris or other wastes that can't be recycled and have to be taken to a landfill.

The only waste item that actually has enough value to be sold is the scrap metal, which can bring about $100 a ton, according to Bennett.

But separating out materials such concrete also pays for itself. It would cost about $70 a ton or more to get rid of concrete as mixed waste, but $5 to $10 a ton to turn it into fill that can be buried during construction of the new school, he said.

''Not only will that prevent those materials from going into a landfill, but you won't be hauling all of that stuff off-site'' in diesel-powered trucks, Tompkins said.

The lumber and other wastes -- insulation, glass, plastics -- will be trucked up to Lewiston, where the wood is sorted out and sold as fuel for large wood-powered mills. The remaining mixed wastes are sent to a landfill because they have no value, Bennett said.

Gypsum wallboard, known for causing odor problems in landfills, is being taken to the CPRC Group in Scarborough, a major commercial recycler. The company uses the material in a variety of products, such as a soil additive, said John Adelman, CPRC president.

He also has seen a growing effort to reuse and recycle.

''The regulatory community is pushing it, and saying, 'You've got to do more because we don't want these things in the landfills.' The other thing that's pushing is the economic piece,'' Adelman said. ''I think it'll continue to be more and more of what happens.''

Staff Writer John Richardson can be contacted at 791-6324 or at:

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Gordon Chibroski


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