Terry Weaver was recently appointed president of the Construction & Demolition Recycling Association (CDRA) during the association’s annual C&D World convention in Brooklyn, New York. For more than 20 years, Weaver has been a leader in gypsum recycling services as president and general manager of Denver, Pennsylvania-based USA Gypsum.
Waste Today talked with Weaver about his new role, the changing construction and demolition (C&D) recycling landscape and the goals he has for the future of the CDRA.
Waste Today (WT): How did you get started in the C&D recycling industry?
Terry Weaver (TW): We founded USA Gypsum in response to market demand for drywall material, and recycling was a prime material source. The concept of getting involved in gypsum drywall recycling came about when an agronomist doing soils analysis work on my farms felt gypsum would balance our soil nutritional needs, but at the time, there wasn’t any available locally. Research on markets and material sourcing led to us building our own pilot plant in 1998.
WT: How have you seen the industry change over the course of your career?
TW: In 20 years, recycling of construction materials went from being something that was rarely done to a sophisticated industry where more than 584 million tons of materials are recycled annually, which conserves natural resources, saves energy and creates thousands of jobs. My experience was similar. In 1998, the only people we could interest in recycling were modular housing manufacturers. Seven years later, we began hearing about green building and the LEED rating system, and by 2006, we were working with the first mixed C&D processors who sent us gypsum drywall segregated from the mixed C&D waste stream.
WT: What are some of the top initiatives you want to tackle in your time as president of CDRA?
TW: The CDRA board recently updated its strategic plan. One of our main initiatives includes increasing membership so that the CDRA can increase research and advocacy efforts to advance the C&D recycling industry as a whole. The work that the CDRA does to support C&D waste processing seems to be a well-kept secret. Despite quality research on critical and underserved markets such as wood, processing fines and advocacy work at the federal and local level, thousands of recyclers and vendors who derive their livelihood from the industry are not taking advantage of the opportunities to collaborate, innovate and advance the industry that the CDRA provides. I view it as my challenge to find out why and help bring industry participants into the fold.
WT: What are the biggest challenges facing the C&D recycling community?
TW: Finding markets for recycled materials remains the biggest challenge. Unlike the international market difficulties facing municipal solid waste (MSW) and curbside material recycling, most C&D markets are local. That means reclaimed materials can be utilized locally while creating value for the communities the recycler serves. Regulatory hurdles and questions pertaining to material quality are also areas where research and market development are needed.
WT: What more needs to be done on the legislative front to ensure C&D recycling remains as viable as it can be?
TW: Recovered C&D wood markets especially need support at the federal and state levels. C&D wood extracted from the waste stream is an important economic source for processors. The CDRA won important considerations in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) view of C&D wood being a viable fuel source, but states have been slow to permit facilities while encouraging or, in some cases, requiring C&D recycling where it makes sense to do so.
We also are supporting efforts by the EPA to improve the recycling infrastructure in this country, as well as pushing an effort by a large group of recycling and manufacturer organizations to get funding to support recycling facilities.
WT: What notable C&D recycling trends are you seeing? Are you optimistic or pessimistic about where we’re heading?
TW: I am optimistic. I believe developers and building owners are responding to consumers’ preferences for more recycling and recycled content. Landfill capacity shortages and odor issues in some regions will raise landfill costs in the future, which in turn increases the value of recycling. On the operations side, I believe the application of artificial intelligence, robotics and other equipment investments at recycling facilities will improve quality and lower costs.