The Circular Philadelphia Built Environment Working Group collaborated to set a roadmap for crafting fair and effective legislation that ensures that construction and demolition debris is recycled by building a market and creating accountability.
Circular Philadelphia is proud to announce the release of its third-in-a-series of policy papers in advance of the next mayoral administration and new city council taking office in 2024. The policy paper, entitled Construction and Demolition Recycling Legislation for Philadelphia: A Policy Guide, is intended to be a comprehensive, yet digestible, well-researched paper on how to increase construction and demolition debris recycling in the Philadelphia region through legislation. In short, it makes the case for the why and lays out clear guidance on the how to achieve this major goal. This work was the culmination of 11 Circular Philadelphia members and participants on our Built Environment Working Group putting in dozens of hours of work to create this paper.
Circular Philadelphia’s theory of change has an end goal of market transformation, which may seem like the most important part of the arc. But as the saying goes, all great journeys start with the first step. And for Circular Philadelphia, there is no more important step than identifying the policies that are either not present or blocking the path toward market transformation.
One of the major undertakings of this paper was trying to quantify how much construction and demolition material is actually being recycled in Philadelphia, and what’s being sent to landfills and incinerators. Unfortunately, the City datasets are very incomplete and unreliable. The second undertaking was trying to craft legislation that is enforceable on the City side, but also fair and workable in the private sector.
Read the construction and demolition recycling legislation policy paper online.
To make the case for action, the Circular Philadelphia team laid out the current state of affairs when it comes to construction and demolition debris recycling in Philadelphia. We used multiple data sets on the city, state and national level to fully understand how much the environmental impact of construction and demolition debris entering landfills. We then did a deep dive on the city and state level to understand all existing legislation and policy that either needs to be built upon or amended to achieve this legislative goal.
We then researched other solutions of how other cities, counties and states have crafted legislation that takes into account the needs of the myriad stakeholders that would be affected by this legislation. These examples took us to the often cited example of California’s statewide policy to lesser cited examples in places such as Lee County, Florida and Lake County, Illinois.
Crafting and Evaluating Policy Recommendations
With these examples, we improved upon the original policy proposal that we released as a policy flyer in October of 2022 to introduce our concept and collect other feedback from the general public. We also presented this policy idea at Green Building United’s Sustainability Symposium in May. In the end, we came up with these four steps to create policy that will achieve reductions in single use plastic in Philadelphia.
Step 1: Licenses and Inspections Creates a Publicly Accessible List of Verified C&D Recyclers in the Philadelphia Region
Step 2: L&I Inspectors Conduct a Recycling Assessment and Permit Holders Must Ensure All Recyclable Material Goes to a C&D Recycler
Step 3: Permit Holders Fill Out a Form Affirming That Materials Were Taken to a C&D Recycling Facility and Provide Dump Receipts
Step 4: L&I Inspectors Confirm That All Recyclable Materials Were Recycled and Issues a Certificate of Occupancy or Closes the Permit
Taking a cue from the former Philadelphia Zero Waste and Litter Cabinet’s strategy for creating policy, the Circular Philadelphia team ran this proposed legislation through three crucial questions to ensure the legislation’s success:
- Can we do it?
- Will it work?
- Is it worth it?
Our premise is that if we could not defend the legislation against these three questions, then we could not, in good conscience, promote this legislation. However, we were pleased and energized to be able to defend the legislation against these questions, and we are very optimistic for its success as a piece of legislation.
We conclude the paper by exploring budgetary considerations, private sector needs and economic benefits of the policy, and the first steps legislators will need to take to craft this legislation.
However, this paper is not just for legislators. This is for any stakeholder that wants common sense, yet effective, policies to address the detrimental effects of mis-managed construction and demolition debris on Philly’s waste streams and area landfills and incinerators. Together, we can make this legislation a reality and use it to engage the entire built environment stakeholders such as architects, developers, contractors, haulers, manufacturers and recycling processors to build a strong recycling sector for this industry.
But to get there, we need to take that first step on this journey. If you’d like to do that, please consider becoming a member of Circular Philadelphia and/or contacting firstname.lastname@example.org to find out how you can get involved.