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Life Cycle Inventories of End-of-Life Pathways of Construction and Demolition Materials
Niblick, B., D. Hage, S. Cashman, J. Smith, P. Jain, A. Edelen, T. Townsend, AND W. Ingwersen. Life Cycle Inventories of End-of-Life Pathways of Construction and Demolition Materials. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Washington, DC, EPA/600/R-21/162, 2021.
This report examines the management of materials from the construction and demolition of buildings, roads, and other structures at their end of life (EOL). The end-of-life phase may include a landfill, a recycling center, or a waste-to-energy incineration facility, for example. Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is an approach used to examine the potential environmental impacts of material management scenarios. Much LCA research has focused on materials from household and community activities (e.g., municipal solid waste), but little attention has been given to construction and demolition debris (CDD). This report begins to fill that knowledge gap and can be used in academia, government, and industry research.
EPA's Sustainable and Healthy Communities Program has a mission to develop data and tools that enable community leaders to integrate environmental, societal, and economic factors into their decision-making processes and thus foster community sustainability. This report examines one key area of community sustainability interest, the management of materials from the construction and demolition of buildings, roads, and other structures at their end of life (EOL). Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is an approach frequently used to examine the environmental implications of the EOL management of materials, and while much LCA research has focused on materials from household and community activities (e.g., municipal solid waste), very little effort has focused on construction and demolition debris (CDD). Though CDD constitutes a substantial volume of material, the impact that these materials have on human and ecological health has not been recognized in the same manner as other wastes, and thus they have been less studied. A meaningful LCA requires a robust database of information (e.g., material composition and magnitude, energy consumption, and environmental emissions) from throughout a material or product’s life cycle. Compilations of such data – a life cycle inventory (LCI) – provide the backbone for conducting an LCA to examine different materials management strategies. The primary objective of the work presented here was to extensively assess the body of knowledge regarding CDD life-cycle data and to compile US-specific LCIs for distinct CDD material categories from publicly available sources. These LCI datasets are intended to complement background databases, which include LCIs for a variety of processes and services such as natural resource extraction, manufacturing, energy production, and transportation. An additional objective of this research was to identify data gaps pertaining to CDD LCIs and thus identify future areas of focus. LCIs were developed for the EOL management perspective of the following CDD materials: asphalt pavement, asphalt shingles, gypsum drywall, CDD wood, land clearing debris (LCD), Portland cement concrete, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), fiberglass insulation, carpet and padding, clay bricks, copper wire, and vinyl composition tile (VCT). Current EOL management practices were identified based on published industry, government, and peer-reviewed literature. Although the CDD LCIs in this report represent the most comprehensive datasets currently available on this material stream, they are still limited due to the relative scarcity of US-specific data since CDD has not been examined to the same degree as other EOL materials. Major data gaps include, but are not limited to, the following: i. State-specific tracking data for quantities of CDD materials processed or recycled; ii. Tracking mechanisms for materials such as copper wire that are frequently removed directly from a site; iii. Long-term liquid and gaseous emissions from CDD and MSW landfills; iv. More precise emissions modeling for material incineration scenarios; and v. Transport distances between management processes for discarded and processed CDD materials. To complement the data gap analysis, several recommendations for material-specific data collection were identified and are described in each chapter of the report.