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New Cook County ordinance has builders being environmentally friendly

Monday, April 28, 2014
Chicago Sun-Times
by Jackie Pilossoph

The 2014 construction season has begun, and with it comes a newer Cook County ordinance that will affect what construction companies, builders and municipalities do with debris from their projects. In other words, they either recycle the debris or get fined.

“The ordinance actually went into effect in 2012, but at that point, we started outreach and education,” said Bryant Williams, manager of engineering services for the Cook County Department of Environment Control. “Now we are enforcing it, but we try to provide every opportunity for compliance.”

Williams said the decision for the law, which is called the “Cook County Demolition Debris Diversion,” was based on two factors: an opportunity to reduce the amount of waste in the county, and the benefit of economic growth associated with the recycled building materials.

“Instead of landfilling demolition debris, there are jobs that can be created through reusing, recycling and repurposing it,” he said.

C & D Recycling is way ahead of the game. The Northbrook construction and demolition recycling facility opened in 2007. It was the brainchild of three individuals who had a vision to help the environment by keeping debris out of landfills and putting it back into the construction industry.

“Everything gets sorted and separated, and then we send it to various end users,” said Nancy Hirsch, who owns the company with her brother, Larry Hirsch and their business partner, Sam Sciarretta. “For example, our asphalt shingles are sent to a company that further processes them for road base.”

C & D Recycling got its start when Sciarretta, who is also the owner of Se Enterprises, Inc., his Northbrook-based property maintenance company, bought a roll-off truck and some dumpsters he needed to help clear debris from his construction projects. He also started keeping furniture, metal and other construction debris because he knew they had value.

On a vacation in Florida in 2005, Sciarretta noticed a company that was recycling construction debris, and he used it as his business model. He then approached Larry Hirsch, owner of AA Service Company, a Northbrook heating and air conditioning business as an investor.

“Larry and I visited the operations in Florida and saw the amount of material that was being recycled, and it was astronomical,” said Sciarretta. “Materials vary in different parts of the U.S., and in our region there was even more of an opportunity because there was more product.”

Sciarretta said Larry decided to be more than an investor. He wanted to be Sciarretta’s business partner.

“It was not only a great business opportunity, but also a real way to contribute to the environment,” Larry said.

Nancy Hirsch, who was working as a project manager in the office furniture industry, said she got a call from her brother shortly after, offering her a job.

“He said, ‘Quit your job, I want you to run this company,’” said Nancy, who lives in Northbrook with her husband and two children.

In addition to C & D Recycling, the three own Active Disposal, their transport company that takes debris from homes and construction sites to C & D Recycling.

According to Nancy, some of the debris does end up in landfills, but they strive to recycle all the materials they can, which include wood, brass, concrete, metals, cardboard, roofing, flooring, and mixed construction debris.

In addition to the Cook County ordinance, Nancy said that the villages of Northbrook, Winnetka, Highland Park and Grayslake have their own law, which requires recycling for construction and reconstruction.

“With the volume we get, which is about 200 tons per day on a slow day to 700 tons per day during our busy time, putting it all in a landfill would be devastating to the environment,” Larry said.



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