Clean and Green: Recycling Old Ceiling Tiles Pays Off

It goes without saying that we all want to make our renovation projects as green as possible. One of the easiest way to do that is by recycling old ceiling tiles.

Since it first introduced its ceiling tile recycling program in 1999, Armstrong Ceiling Solutions, has diverted 195 million square feet of old ceiling materials from going to landfill. That’s equivalent to more than a million tons of virgin raw materials saved. Armstrong uses those old tiles to manufacture new, Ceiling-2 ceiling panels.

CGC has a similar program and is committed to supporting projects that create sustainable spaces requiring fewer resources to build, operate, and maintain. CGC’s environmental policy calls for “continuous improvement in energy conservation, waste-water treatment, material reclaiming, and recycling programs in order to continue to create and build spaces that not only perform and inspire but reflect environmental priorities.”

Winroc also participates in ceiling tile recycling as part of Armstrong’s program.
Aside from the obvious benefit of environmental responsibility, there are a number of good reasons to recycle old ceiling panels, including avoiding land fill tipping fees.

Recycling old ceiling tiles qualifies your project for LEED waste diversion credits—specifically MRp Required and MRc1-2 under LEED v4.

The general concept is to recycle and/ or salvage nonhazardous construction and demolition debris, and to develop and implement a construction waste management plan that, at a minimum, identifies the materials to be diverted from disposal and whether the materials will be sorted on-site or co-mingled.

By adding a ceiling recycling program to the waste management plan, a project can divert materials from the waste stream, increasing diversion percentage. Ceilings qualify as nonstructural material, as a material stream to meet 50-75 per cent diversion, and as a reduction in total waste.

A project gains operational and economic benefits, as well. Jobs sites canbekeptcleaner,withnocrushedtiles or waste lying around. That can mean a safer work environment. Removing tiles early in the demo process opens ceiling areas to follow-on trades and to mechanical contractors who can more easily get in to do their job. The end result is a more efficient job site.

Recycling ceiling tiles may initially seem a bit more effort than tossing them down a chute, but there really is very little extra work involved once the preliminaries are out of the way.

In the case of the Armstrong program, the first step is to register the project with the Armstrong Recycling Centre. All of the resources you’ll need to get started are on Armstrong’s website.

The next step is a review of building and material requirements with the Recycling Centre. The building construction date, an asbestos survey, and a signed recycling agreement are required documentation to approve any recycling project. A project must be approved before removal of the ceiling for recycling.

Once a project is approved, there are two options to return your ceiling panels.

The first is to stack the panels on pallets, label, and stretch wrap or tightly band them. Check with the Armstrong Recycling Centre for bulk return methods that are available in some regions. A project can then co- ordinate on-site storage and logistics.
The second option is to separate ceiling panels from other construction debris and place them in a designated recycling container. A project can then co-ordinate removal of the container with a local C&D partner.

All brands of dry, pulpable mineral fibre ceiling panels or tiles can be recycled, providing all metal splines have been removed. Others, including some fibreglass, vinyl, glue up, and more can be determined on a case-by- case basis.

Tile that cannot be recycled includes ceiling tiles containing asbestos or installed below friable asbestos or other hazardous material, wet or moldy panels, foil-backed, and a number of others. Again the Armstrong website has complete guidelines on which materials are acceptable for their recycling program.

Recycling ceiling tiles can also go toward helping to meet the 2030 Challenge, to make all buildings, developments, and major renovations carbon-neutral by 2030. Buildings are the major source of global demand for energy and for materials that produce by-product greenhouse gases.

The targets set out in the 2030 Challenge have been adopted and are being implemented by 80 per cent of the top 10, and 65 per cent of the top 20 architecture/engineering/planning firms in the US. In addition, the American Institute of Architects, American Society of Heating, Refrigeration and Air-Conditioning, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the US federal government, and many other organizations as well as state and local governments and agencies have adopted the Challenge. In Canada, the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada, the Ontario Association of Architects, and cities such as Vancouver have also adopted the Challenge targets.