The Contractor’s Guide to Jobsite Recycling

By courtney_patrick on 04/23/2018

Recycling bins for different materials

Construction sites in the U.S. produce millions of tons of waste every year! These work sites produce a variety of scrap materials, including wood, metal, PVC, drywall, roofing, cardboard, and paper. Most jobsites simply dispose of their waste by renting or buying a dumpster that they dump all their scraps into. Once full, they take it to a landfill or incinerator to be disposed of. This can be a costly process for many contractors. Jobsite recycling can be a better solution to save money and make better decisions for the environment.

Recycling Scraps

There are a variety of ways to recycle different types of scraps, including:

Close up of a pile of scrap metal


Recycling metal scraps is the probably the most profitable recycling solution for contractors. There are many companies across the United States that will purchase scrap metal for people to then melt and recycle it. Some of the scrap metals that are commonly recycled are copper, steel, aluminum, brass, iron, and wires.

Knowing which metals to recycle and how to do it can be frustrating, so here are some tips for properly recycling your scrap metal.

  1. To be classified as scrap metal, an item must be at least 50% metal.
  2. Any products that have removable metal should be separated and recycled accordingly. Ex: A nail with a plastic washer should be recycled separately, with the nail as scrap metal and the washer as plastic.

  3. Scrap metal is classified under two classes, either ferrous or nonferrous.

    1. Ferrous metals contain iron and are magnetic.

    2. Nonferrous metals are all the other nonmagnetic metals.

  4. Earth911’s directory contains a list of scrap metal recyclers.

  5. Most scrap metal recyclers pay by the pound, with nonferrous scrap metals having an increased per/pound worth.

Metal is one of the most important recycled materials because unlike glass and plastic, which are artificially made, metal is a natural resource. So, make sure next time you have scrap metal, save it to be taken to recycler.

Jobsite of men working with drywall


Did you know, that drywall in landfills can cause water pollution, often leading to diarrhea and even in severe situations, vomiting? Drywall, when wet, produces sulfates that can often leak into the ground, and incinerated drywall produces a toxic gas called sulfur dioxide. Both are reasons that many green-focused organizations are pushing for the recycling of drywall on construction sites for environmental safety.

Drywall is relatively easy to recycle because it is made from gypsum, which has numerous uses. To recycle it, all you have to do is remove any contaminants (screws, nails, staples, etc) and find a local recycler on

Please note that if you are removing drywall from a home older than 1978, there may Asbestos in your walls which can lead to lung cancer, even after minor exposure.

Different types of PVC pipe on a table


PVC Pipe, or Polyvinyl Chloride, is a commonly used material within most buildings. PVC is made of 100% recyclable materials, but often gets thrown away.

There are two different types of recycling options for PVC pipes, mechanical, and chemical recycling.

  • Mechanical Recycling: Mechanical recycling turns PVC pipes into a new resource by grinding the material into a powder base.

  • Chemical Recycling: Chemical recycling breaks down the PVC pipe at a molecular level and removes any toxins.

Most of your local recycling plants will probably use mechanical recycling, but if you would prefer chemical recycling, you can probably find one in your area.

For further resources on recycling check-out this blog:

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