ABCs of C&D

New construction and demolition wood fuel specs are designed to aid buyers, sellers and regulators.
By Anna Austin | July 28, 2011

The Construction Materials Recycling Association and the National Solid Wastes Management Association have developed new standards for construction and demolition (C&D) wood debris to promote it as a fuel source.

The specifications will be a starting point in negotiations between potential buyers and sellers of C&D wood fuel, and will aid governmental regulators and legislators to better understand workable and proven specifications for the materials.

Dan Costello, CMRA material standards committee chair and president of Costello Dismantling, says wood is a primary material generated at C&D sites. “In fact, we estimate that it can make up 30 percent of these materials,” he says. “The specs will help standardize wood chips processed at C&D processing facilities and expand markets for biomass fuel.” 

The specifications are based on industry experience, permit requirements for boilers using C&D wood as a fuel stock and regulatory requirements governing its use. The groups say that the specifications, which provide a guide of differing grades of C&D wood product, are needed to ensure the fuel is suitable to be burned in a particular combustion system.

The U.S. EPA reports that comprehensive information on the quantity of C&D materials combusted for energy recovery is currently unavailable. However, a combustor survey database developed by the agency for the 2009 proposal of the Commercial and Industrial Solid Waste Incinerator standards and the Industrial Boilers Maximum Achievable Control Technology standards indicates that the sources surveyed annually combust 4.7 million tons of material characterized as C&D debris and 6.5 million tons of secondary wood material per year that may be C&D debris.

C&D waste is not lacking in the U.S. According to the EPA, in 2003 about 33 million to 40 million tons of C&D wood debris was generated, and only about half was of acceptable size, quality and condition to be refurbished. While some states such as California, Maine, Michigan and Florida allow the combustion of C&D wood with proper emission control technologies, others including New Hampshire ban its use as a fuel product, do not allow it to be eligible for renewable energy credits or limit the amount that can be used at facilities. The CMRA is fighting New Hampshire’s ban and is developing a life-cycle analysis for the use of C&D wood as a fuel product, which will determine whether it is better to use it as a fuel or to landfill it.

Using C&D waste as a fuel also saves money, according to the Northeast States for Coordinated Air Use Management, which estimates that C&D woody debris costs $10 to $20 less per ton to process as fuel than to send to a landfill.

—Anna Austin