Recycling for General Contractors

Recycling for General Contractors

When you recycle something, you’re essentially refurbishing it so that it can be used to make something new and shiny. It’s good for the environment and ensures that we and the earth will be here for a long, long time. On top of that, everybody can do it, you, your dad and whatever general contractors are reading this.

Speaking of general contractors, because they have a job in which they are absolutely surrounded by… stuff, there’s plenty that they can recycle. Hard hats, scrap metal, paint and plenty more; there’s so much that general contractors can have taken to recycling facilities that the point of this article isn’t so much to let people know that contractors can recycle, but rather what some of the things are that they are able to recycle.

Hard Hats

As it turns out, not only are hard hats able to be recycled, but it’s also rather easy to do. The majority of hard hats are made out of high-density polyethylene or #2 plastic. As an important side note, the number designated to the seven categories of plastics lets you know how hard or easy it will be to recycle it.

The plastics designated # 1, #2, and #4 are rather easy to recycle. Plastics #3, #6 and # 5 are more difficult.  Plastic #7 is the hardest to recycle because it is typically a combination of different resins, one of which – polycarbonate – can even be potentially fatal.

Now that that’s been established, high-density polyethylene is the same material that milk, juice bottles, and plastic bags are made of and is accepted in many recycling centers. High-heat hard hats, on the other hand, are made of polycarbonate – a # 7 plastic. While it is possible to have #7 plastic recycled, it can be difficult to find a facility to accept it. It’s best to call ahead to be sure if any hard hats you may have will be taken by the recycling center.

Scrap Metal

Scrap metal can be re-forged into a variety of things, such as appliances or cans. Taking it to be recycled allows us to stretch the amount of metal we have and can actually earn general contractors a profit, as well as being one less thing just sitting in landfills doing nothing. The general rule of thumb with scrap metals is that they have to be at least 50% metal. If you’ve got at least 50% metal and you want to recycle it, then go right ahead.

Another thing to remember is that scrap metals come in two classes: ferrous – meaning that it has iron (such as steel) in it – and nonferrous, which is pretty much everything else. An easy way to figure this out is to try sticking a magnet to it. If it sticks, its ferrous metal. It is possible, if need be, to have a metal recycling company come out to the site to provide a consultation on the matter.

Light Bulbs

If you’re looking to recycle light bulbs, follow this rule: If it contains mercury then recycle it. Let’s look at compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs) as an example. CFLs contain a very small amount of mercury, but it’s still mercury, nonetheless. To keep it from potentially harming the environment or other people, recycle them. This way, the glass and metal can be reused too.

Standard light bulbs, on the other hand, can just be thrown away. the way by which the bulbs are constructed makes it pretty much impossible to deconstruct them for reuse. Putting them inside of a container, however, will lessen the risk of the glass breaking and injuring someone.


Two of the most important tips for using/recycling paint are to only get the amount you’ll need and to make sure that if you do have paint left over, it’s stored properly. To ensure that it keeps, cover the opening of the can with plastic wrap and secure the lid. Once that’s been done, turn the can upside down and store it in an area with moderate room temperature.

If you can’t use the leftover paint, then you can either donate it or if you can’t or choose not to do so, you can properly dispose of it by giving it to a leftover paint collection program. If this option isn’t open to you, the paint can be poured into materials like sawdust or newspaper (things that can absorb it) and then left to dry. Once that’s been done, it can be simply thrown away.

DO NOT under any circumstances try this with liquid alkyd or oil-based paints. Both contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that have a strong smell and can cause dizziness, headaches, lung and skin irritation, respiratory issues and liver or kidney disorders.

To dispose of solvents, the best thing to do is to contact your local state/government EPA center for advice. If there is a recycling program in your area, then the dried, empty containers (with lids off) can be handed over to them.


While it may not occur to most people, asphalt can be recycled. After all, not only is it used for roads, but asphalt can be used for roof shingles and fish hatchery linings just to name a few things. It’s actually one of the most commonly recycled things in the United States.

Asphalt falls under a class of recycling called construction and demolition waste (C&D waste) which also includes glass, wood, and concrete. It can be difficult to find centers that take C&D waste, but it can be done. You can check out RecycleNation’s Recycle Search tool to see if there is a C&D waste facility in your area.

Before you take the asphalt to the center, you may want to make sure there’s no wood or metal stuck inside of it. There are also some centers that only accept pieces of asphalt paving but not shingles. It’s a good idea to call ahead to be sure of what you can or can’t take to them.

See, as stated before, there’s plenty that a general contractor can have recycled from job sites. Were some of these items things that would have occurred to you at first glance? Are there items on job sites that you’ve had recycled that we didn’t name? Let us know in the comments! Your input is always welcome.