Category I Recycling Center

Recycling is the third R of the three R’s: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle. Recycling means taking a product or material at the end of its useful life and turning it into a usable raw material to make another product. Recycling is a series of activities that includes collecting recyclable materials that would otherwise be considered waste, sorting and processing recyclables into raw materials such as fibers, and manufacturing raw materials into new products.

Recycling Facts & Figures

  • In 1999, recycling and composting activities prevented about 64 million tons of material from ending up in landfills and 

    incinerators. Today, the U.S. recycles 32 percent of its waste, a rate that has almost doubled during the past 15 years 

  • While recycling has grown in general, recycling of specific materials has grown even more drastically: 50 percent of all paper, 34 percent of all plastic soft drink bottles, 45 percent of all aluminum cans, 63 percent of all steel packaging, and 67 percent of all major appliances are now recycled.

  • Twenty years ago, only one curbside recycling program existed in the United States, which collected several materials at the curb. By 2005, almost 9,000 curbside programs had sprouted up across the nation. As of 2005, about 500 materials recovery facilities had been established to process the collected materials.

Collecting and processing secondary materials, manufacturing recycled-content products, and then purchasing recycled products creates a circle or loop that ensures the overall success and value of recycling.

  • Step 1 – Collection and Processing
    Collecting recyclables varies from community to community, but there are four primary methods: curbside, drop-off centers, buy-back centers, and deposit/refund programs. Regardless of the method used to collect the recyclables, the next leg of their journey is usually the same. Recyclables are sent or dropped off at a recycling center to be sorted and prepared into marketable commodities for manufacturing. Once recyclables are sorted they are stored in large containers until enough material is accumulated to bale. Materials are then fed into balers. Bales are compacted and bound into cubes of recycled materials that reduce the volume of recycled goods and facilitate transportation. Recyclables are bought and sold just like any other commodity, and prices for the materials change and fluctuate with the market.
  • Step 2 – Manufacturing
    Once cleaned and separated, the recyclables are ready to undergo the second part of the recycling loop. More and more of today’s products are being manufactured with total or partial recycled content. Common household items that contain recycled materials include newspapers and paper towels; aluminum, plastic, and glass soft drink containers; steel cans; and plastic laundry detergent bottles. Recycled materials also are used in innovative applications such as recovered glass in composite glass/concrete countertops or recovered plastic in carpeting, park benches, and pedestrian bridges.
  • Step 3 – Purchasing Recycled Products
    Purchasing recycled products completes the recycling loop. By “buying recycled,” governments, as well as businesses and individual consumers, each play an important role in making the recycling process a success. As consumers demand more environmentally sound products, manufacturers will continue to meet that demand by producing high-quality recycled products.

Source: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The functional and programmatic requirements for the recycling center space outlined below must be met at a minimum. The area allocations, however, are suggestions only and may be altered. Solutions should observe the total gross square footage, within a range of plus or minus ten percent.


Educational Lobby/Exhibition Gallery 2,000 sq ft
The exhibition gallery should be designed as a flexible, column-free space that can be divided into smaller galleries as needed. A minimum clear interior vertical dimension of 12-15 feet should be maintained throughout the space. The gallery should allow for the display and installation of non-traditional art and exhibits.

Public Recycling Drop-off/Loading Dock 500 sq ft
A drop-off area for simple recyclables such as: papers, plastic, glass, aluminum, electronics (computers, televisions, cell phones), paint, and batteries.

Public Recycling Pre-sorted Drop-off Exterior
An exterior drop-off for large and chemical recyclables from the residential public such as: construction waste (copper, metal, dry wall, steel, wood, concrete, brick, block, marble), motor oils, pesticides, and tires.

Reuse/Collection Center 1,000 sq ft
A collection area for clothing and household goods. The Recycling Center will have regularly scheduled pick-ups of these clothing and household goods from local charity groups such as Goodwill and Salvation Army. This will provide the public with one simple destination to drop-off all recyclable items.

Restroom (2 at 500 sq ft) 1,000 sq ft


Loading Dock (4 truck minimum) 4 ,000 sq ft
Commercial recycling haulers dump incoming materials onto a tipping floor, which also serves as a pre-processing storage area. Materials are then moved to conveyors for sorting.

Private Recycling Pre-sorted Drop-off Exterior
This drop-off area is similar to the public recycling pre-sorted drop-off area, but equipped for dump truck size deposits.

Sorting Area 20,000 sq ft
This area will be the heart of the recycling center where most goods will be sorted, cleaned, and categorized for re-use. Materials are first sorted manually along conveyors to remove bulky items and plastic bags before feeding into a mechanical sorter.

Processing Area 30,000 sq ft
Once recyclables are sorted they are stored in large containers until enough material is accumulated to bale. Materials are then fed into balers. Bales are compacted and bound cubes of recycled materials that reduce the volume of recycled goods and facilitate transportation.

Shared Offices 1,000 sq ft
A shared office area for four to five individuals.

Private Offices (2 at 200 sq ft) 4 00 sq ft

Security Office 500 sq ft

Lunch/Break Room 500 sq ft

Restroom/Locker-room (2 at 600 sq ft) 1,200 sq ft

Sorted/Storage Area Exterior
After materials have been received, processed and baled they are stored while awaiting delivery or pick-up. Bales are loaded onto trucks and transported to buyers to be remanufactured into a partially recycled product.

Total Net Interior Square Feet 62,100 sq ft

Total Gross Interior Square Feet 68,300 sq ft
Plus 10% Allowance for mechanical areas, circulation, structure, etc.

Sustainable design innovations and ideas should be used throughout the recycling center including the building and exterior. Sustainably designed buildings and sites aim to lessen their impact on our environment through energy and resource efficiency. Sustainable design concepts can include, but are not limited to, objectives such as: durability, recyclability, reduced site disturbance, storm water management, heat island effect, optimized energy performance, indoor air quality, material use reductions and recycled content use. Solutions providing multiple benefits from a single application will receive extra credit. For example, insulated concrete wall systems have numerous benefits such as structure, fire resistance, noise abatement, superior energy performance through high R-value, negligible air infiltration, thermal mass, improved air quality (no paints required), and reduced maintenance. The jury will select winners based on inventive ways students have integrate portland cement-based solutions into their design to achieve sustainable development objectives.

The site for this competition is at the discretion of students and/or faculty sponsors. Requirements however are for the site to be located in a transition zone between industrial and commercial areas. The site needs to be adjacent to a major urban avenue for ease of public use and access for trucks entering and exiting the facility. The site needs to be a minimum of three to four acres with a suggested location of a brownfield or other abandoned or under-used land. Submissions will be required to explain graphically or otherwise the site selection and strategy.

Refer to the International Building Code and the local zoning ordinance for information on parking requirements, height restrictions, set backs, easements, flood, egress, and fire containment.

The design project must use concrete or any portland cement based application as a key building material. A strategy should be considered that evaluates a method for reducing overall life cycle cost for the recycling center project in using innovative methods of structure, fabrication, and construction.

It is required that each presentation address, but not be limited to, the specific criteria outlined in the design challenge through the following required drawings: 

  • site plan showing the surrounding buildings and streets, topography, and circulation patterns; building floor plans; 
  • elevations and building sections sufficient to show site context and major program elements;
  • drawings that best show the relationship between portland cement-based materials and sustainable design objectives, such as floor plans, elevations, and sections;
  • illustrations of key elements of sustainable infrastructure and building systems; detail drawing(s), either two or three-dimensional, illustrating the key elements of sustainable infrastructure and building systems;
  • a three-dimensional representation in the form of axonometric, perspective, or model photographs.

All drawings should be drawn at a scale appropriate to the design solution and include a graphic scale and north arrow as appropriate.

Concrete Competition Program (PDF)