Boosting Member Benefits while Spreading the Recycling Message

The Construction & Demolition Recycling Association (CDRA)

The Construction & Demolition Recycling Association (CDRA) occupies a unique niche. “We’re the only advocacy group for the construction and demolition recycling marketplace in the United States. We are a group that is furthering our industry,” states Troy Lautenbach, President of the CDRA.
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The association was founded in 1994 and is based in Chicago. It currently has about 250 members according to Lautenbach, who adds, “Our goal is to push it north of three hundred this year.” These members include companies, vendors, and government entities involved in the construction and demolition (C&D) recycling field.

In the past, materials such as concrete, gypsum drywall, asphalt pavement, wood, and shingles left behind at construction or demolition sites were dumped into landfill – an expensive and environmentally unfriendly option. Recycling efforts keep over 580 million tons of such materials out of landfill every year. In addition to being green, C&D recycling makes good business sense. Recycling means fewer trips to landfill sites, leading to lower transportation costs, and it allows materials to be repurposed for future use.

The Recycling Economic Information (REI) study released in 2016 by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) determined that “C&D recycling accounts for almost 232,000 jobs, more than $11.6 billion in wages, and nearly $1.9 billion in taxes, which is more jobs, wages, and revenue generated than any other material measured.”

“Since I’ve been president, I want to provide value for our membership. Part of that value is advocacy on a national and regional basis, on the regulatory side of things,” says Lautenbach.

To this end, the association has worked closely with the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regarding new rules about silica dust at construction sites. “We were heavily involved and still are involved with that, because we have a lot of concrete recyclers. And when you grind concrete, you create silica dust, so we have an issue with that,” says Lautenbach.

The CDRA has also been working closely with the EPA. “The EPA has put together groups that are focused on waste management recycling [with the goal] of keeping materials out of landfill,” he says.

As one of several organizations working with the EPA to achieve this, the CDRA’s role is “to represent the construction and demolition part,” he continues. “It’s a constant ongoing dialogue we’re having with the EPA. We’ve made great strides with them. Last fall, they held a national event. We were invited and attended.”

Called America Recycles Day, the event was held November 15, 2018 and was designed, according to the EPA, to “recognize the importance and impact of recycling, which has contributed to American prosperity and the protection of our environment.”

This March, the CDRA held its annual conference, the C&D World Exhibition and Conference, in Brooklyn. This is largest event of its kind in North America and typically attracts 250 to 300 people including company owners, vendors, and government officials.

C&D World conferences entail a mix of educational segments, networking opportunities, and socializing. Presentations at the 2019 C&D World Exhibition and Conference focused on everything from labor issues to economic forecasts, fire prevention, biochar – charcoal used to enrich soil – opportunities, and much more.

The conference featured exhibitions from vendors displaying new technology and highlighting trends in the sector as well. The C&D World Exhibition and Conference is also where the CDRA hands out awards in categories such as recycler of the year, member of the year, and C&D hall of fame. The 2019 conference also marked a leadership transition that saw a new president replace Lautenbach.

The CDRA supports groups such as the Recycling Certification Institute (RCI), “a third-party verification organization that makes sure real recycling is actually happening,” at a facility, explains Lautenbach.

When it comes to concrete recycling, CDRA members have a wide selection from which to choose. There are portable, mobile, and stationary concrete recycling plants, all with their own quirks and unique abilities.

CDRA members can avail themselves of information reports, documents, and a quarterly newsletter relating to their industry. A comprehensive manual is also available with information about industry-related regulations and laws. The manual covers all fifty states and explains “what regulatory agencies you need to be in touch with when it comes time to operate in a certain region,” explains Lautenbach.

This kind of information is extremely important, given the maze of government bodies and regulations CDRA members have to negotiate. Depending on their line of work, members might have to meet specifications or follow guidelines set by OSHA, the EPA, the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO), the Army Corps of Engineers, or the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), not to mention state-level departments of transportation.

The CRDA recently launched a free webinar series for members covering topics such as how to use fleet technology to manage safety. Webinars “are kind of a new thing we’ve introduced over the last couple of years. We’ve done some safety webinars and we’re working on putting a marketing webinar, a social media webinar together,” says Lautenbach.

The safety focus is paramount. Vehicle accidents can lead to pricier insurance coverage, higher workers compensation claims, and lost business. The fleet management webinar aims to teach CDRA members how technology and sensible safety measures can improve conditions for employees while reducing insurance costs. The association also provides information on recycler insurance for its members.

The CDRA has been working hard to inform the public about the importance of C&D recycling. The association does “email blasts like everyone else. We do LinkedIn, Facebook. We have a marketing committee that has become very vibrant over the last year, and we’re launching a lot of stuff. So I think you’re going to start to see the CDRA much more present in the media world over the next year,” states Lautenbach.

There are excellent reasons for people who run a C&D company or offer services to the sector to join the CDRA. “We are the only association out there on a regulatory basis, on a legislative basis looking out for the best interests of our industry. And also the networking is amazing. The problem I may have in Washington State, somebody in Florida may have had the same problem, and you go to our conference, you meet somebody, and you end up having that ability to have a conversation with them and work out what their solution was and utilize that for your own facility.”

The association’s goals for the next few years remain the same. “We want to continue to advocate for our membership on the legislative [side]. We also want to increase membership and continue to offer more services for our members. We’re also working really hard on increasing our marketing.”