New LEED Circularity Pilot Credit Incorporates HBN Optimize Recycling Research

Teresa McGrath | January 2020 | Newsletter

As I walked the floor at GreenBuild in Atlanta this past November, I noticed products marketed as containing recycled content. Buying recycled materials is a good thing, right? In some cases, yes, by buying recycled content you reduce the waste stream that would otherwise end up in a landfill. In other cases, recycled content can unintentionally introduce chemicals of concern into products. For example, recycled vinyl can contain phthalates (which can be developmental toxicants),1 toxic heavy metals, and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs).2

HBN’s Optimize Recycling Series researched the top 11 most relevant waste streams to the building industry.3 This research included recycled nylon 6, nylon 6,6, glass cullet, polyethyene, asphalt shingles, asphalt pavement, rubber from tire scrap, wood fiber, steel scrap, flexible polyurethane foam scrap, and polyvinyl chloride scrap (PVC). This research identified the waste streams that commonly contain chemicals of concern and provides guidance on the best ways to avoid them. 

The results of HBN’s Optimize Recycling series were used to inform the new “Circular Products” pilot credit announced at GreenBuild last November.4 This credit was designed to reward project teams for selecting products that support the circular economy.

The “Safe and Circular” section of the Circular Products credit rewards project teams focusing on products with recycled content: 

  • from known sources
  • that have been tested for common contaminants of concern (see text box below)
  • that contain undetectable levels of those common contaminants of concern

As we move toward a more sustainable, more circular economy, we must, from the beginning, design products to be free of chemicals of concern. This improves both recycling rates and the value of these materials at their end of life. For those using recycled feedstocks, ask for feedstocks from known sources and from fully disclosed products. When the source of your feedstock is unknown, avoid recycled feedstocks that commonly contain chemicals of concern or test for common chemicals of concern (see text box below).

References

[1] “NTP-CERHR Monograph on the Potential Human Reproductive and Developmental Effects of Di-Isodecyl Phthalate,” n.d., 147.
[2] “Post-Consumer Polyvinyl Chloride In Building Products,” Healthy Building Network, accessed January 27, 2020, https://healthybuilding.net/reports/11-post-consumer-polyvinyl-chloride-in-building-products.
[3] “Research Reports,” Healthy Building Network, accessed January 27, 2020, https://healthybuilding.net/reports/category/1-optimized-recycling.
[4] “Evel_2019-11-11 Circular Products MR PC_LSC Approved FINAL.Pdf,” accessed January 27, 2020, https://s3.amazonaws.com/hbnweb.prod/uploads/files/Evel_2019-11-11%20Circular%20Products%20MR%20PC_LSC%20approved%20FINAL.pdf.
[5] “Evel_2019-11-11 Circular Products MR PC_LSC Approved FINAL.Pdf.”
[6] “Research Reports,” Healthy Building Network, accessed January 27, 2020, https://healthybuilding.net/reports/category/1-optimized-recycling.