There have been several anecdotal reports over the years about how the recycling rates claimed by some mixed C&D facilities under the recycling credits are not credible in the Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) program. I am sure many of you are aware of facilities providing their customers recycling rates that are nearly impossible to attain, especially based on your knowledge of how those other facilities have to operate and the local markets. Plus, with LEED no longer counting ADC as recycling, and with most facilities having about 30 percent of their infeed being fines, unless the operation has another outlet for those fines besides ADC, there is no way it can claim a recycling rate of more than 60 percent under the program.
Because of the lack of certainty of some of the claims under LEED, some years ago the CDRA Board of Directors voted to start the difficult, time consuming and expensive process of creating an ISO-level program to certify the recycling rates of recycling facilities. We worked with the USGBC to develop what is now the only program (Certification of Recycling Rates) accepted under LEED to verify that what was claimed was being recycled was actually being recycled. At first, use of the CORR program, now under the guidance of the Recycling Certification Institute, started out slowly. It was embraced by only a relatively few facilities and some serious LEED practitioners. But now others from outside that world, including general contractors, have shown interest in making sure the material they are claiming to be recycled, whether under LEED or not, is actually recycled.
Proof of that came recently in a memo issued from a top general contractor to all its offices across North America. In it, the GC headquarters said before work commences, a LEED-compliant construction waste management plan must be developed, and it would be strongly urged that the recycler be certified by RCI in order to verify reporting integrity. In short, the GC has realized that the numbers can be fudged on LEED reports, and is trying to quash that. Do believe this kind of scrutiny is something the C&D recycling industry will see more of. I have come across LEED AP types who don’t seem very interested in seeing a third-party certify the recycling rates of a processing facility, as they are enjoying the numbers they are receiving and don’t want that to change. Those types may always be there. But be assured the Materials & Resources Technical Assistance Group at USGBC, the volunteer arm that guides many important credits, including those for recycling, is aware of the problem of false reporting of recycling rates, and will make changes in the program to help solve questionable practices.
Also, green building programs are not the only ones wanting to get more accurate recycling rate numbers. Some local governments are also interested in making sure the reports they receive from facilities are credible. For example, once four C&D facilities in the Washington, D.C. area are certified by a program such as CORR, then all the facilities that want to accept material from the city will have to be recycled. Some recyclers may not like this, but such certification can only help our industry’s credibility. Expect this trend to continue in the C&D recycling industry.