Living in a historic neighborhood with most houses well past the century mark in age, we see a lot of rehabilitation and renovation work going on. Of course, this means lots of dumpsters parked in front of houses to receive the construction waste produced by these projects. And those dumpsters will likely head for the landfill when full.
As we’ve noted before, a lot of materials from old buildings can be reused or recycled; Arizona Public Radio puts the amount at nearly 90%. APR’s Justin Regan notes “Concrete can be ground up into landscaping material, old wood can still be used for projects as long as it’s in good condition and windows can help make a good green house.”
It seems like a no-brainer: contractors can take these materials, and either reuse them (thus saving the cost of purchasing new), or sell them to other builders. So why isn’t more of this happening? In short, a lack of recycling infrastructure. Drywall, for instance, almost always heads to the landfill in Northern Arizona. It is recyclable, but there aren’t any nearby facilities for handling it. Amanda Acheson of Coconino County’s sustainable building program notes “There’s great resources for metal recycling, we have great resources for concrete recycling, but in general there’s limited resources here in Northern Arizona. And so it’s finding a source that can take it out of Phoenix or elsewhere, but then there’s a cost associated with it.”
As we’re seen time and time again, reuse and recycling often comes down to economics. While Arizona doesn’t have the requirements for building material reuse seen in states like California, the practice is taking off because of demand and good PR. Smart entrepreneurs may want to consider investing in recycling facilities targeting construction waste: it strikes me as an industry with lots of potential.
Know more about reuse of construction waste? Share your thoughts with us in the comments…
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I applaud Arizona for looking at sustainable options for construction waste. While recycling is good, but deconstruction & reuse is a better alternative. What’s the difference? Reusing is simply reusing an item in its original state. Recycling converts an item into another state before it can be used (melting metal to be used in another way).
Did you know deconstruction employs more people than traditional demolition? Deconstruction is done by hand so as not to damage the item. It takes a little longer and can cost a bit more, those materials can find a second life. In CA, non-profit organizations like Deconstruction & ReUse Network partner with other non-profits, gifting the building materials to them to build sustainable homes and communities in the US and in Mexico. Homeowners receive tax deductions for the donation since their home’s building materials is considered personal property. Hopefully non-profits will take up the cause and a AZ Habitat for Humanity will open a ReStore. ReStores provides homeowners with an opportunity to buy used, and sometimes high end building materials for a fraction of the cost of buying it new. It can be a win-win for all involved.