The built environment is responsible for a significant portion of global waste generation.
Construction and demolition (C&D) waste requires significant landfill areas and costs
billions of dollars. New business models that reduce this waste may prove to be financially
beneficial and generally more sustainable. One such model is referred to as the “Circular
Economy” (CE), which promotes the efficient use of materials to minimize waste
generation and raw material consumption. CE is achieved by maximizing the life of
materials and components and by reclaiming the typically wasted value at the end of their
life. This thesis identifies the potential opportunities for using CE in the built environment.
It first calculates the magnitude of C&D waste and its main streams, highlights the top
C&D materials based on weight and value using data from various regions, identifies the
top C&D materials’ current recycling and reuse rates, and finally estimates a potential
financial benefit of $3.7 billion from redirecting C&D waste using the CE concept in the
When I established Contento Recycling LLC in 2017, it was poised to be Central New York’s first ever construction and demolition debris recycling business. I was tasked with the challenge that many sustainability professionals are tasked with and that was to show the community why they should stop taking their construction debris to the landfill, and instead bring it to my recycling center for processing, recycling, and landfill diversion. Over the last several years I applied for state grant funding, spread awareness about my new business, designed and constructed a material recovery facility, outfitted equipment, and trained staff. I now have a facility that accepts about 40 tons of mixed C&D debris per day, and diverts about 20% of that from the landfill.
On a more personal level, I learned a tremendous amount about dealing with change management. I’ve learned a lot about business development, and some keys to success when building a business. I’ve figured out how to help my employees and customers grow. I’ve learned to be more patient and flexible with my business endeavors. I have a much clearer vision of what I want for my business and for myself. I have developed a rousing optimism on the impact that my business, and myself can have on the sustainable development of Central New York. I will be a leader in environmental stewardship and partner with other people and organizations who want to work towards a more sustainable future.