Reduce Your Building Waste

Tabitha Alterman
July/August 2005
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The construction of an average home (2,000 square feet) usually results in 8,000 pounds of construction waste. Add that to the waste generated by demolition, and the figures are astounding: Every year in the United States, 136 million tons of construction and demolition waste are tossed into landfills. This debris amounts to more than half of all landfill waste ? and much of it can be reused if handled properly. Here are several ways you can locate reclaimed and recycled construction materials:

  • The Internet. 'Freecycling' is an easy-to-use Internet service for people who want to trade things locally, for free. Also try Build.Recycle.Net and Sustainable Architecture, Building and Culture for a list of similar organizations. And frequently, there are auctions of used construction materials at eBay.

  • Your neighborhood. Your neighbors who are remodeling will probably be thrilled that you want to take that old bathtub, shower door or fireplace mantel off their hands. Houses set to be torn down also are gold mines for prospective builders who need materials, especially wood, hardware and fixtures such as sinks and cabinets. Local construction companies and salvage yards, too, are often willing to unload their 'waste' onto eager takers.

  • Habitat for Humanity. The home-building charity organization operates retail outlets called ReStores, that sell quality used and surplus building materials at a fraction of their regular prices.

  • Yellow Pages. When searching for used building materials in the phone book, look up 'used,' 'recycled,' 'salvaged,' 'antique' or 'junk.'

  • Contractors. The technology to reconstitute many construction waste items into new products is rapidly progressing, and many building professionals will use reclaimed or recycled materials whenever they can. For a list of sources near you, visit the Green Building Professionals Directory.

By donating and building with used materials, you can feel good about participating in all three R's ? reducing, reusing and recycling ? while saving money and supporting local economies.

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