When homes are renovated or demolished, all too often lots of materials are put in a Dumpster and hauled to the landfill. This is both wasteful and costly — many parts of homes can be reused, re-purposed and recycled, saving both money and increasingly scarce landfill space.
We all know how to recycle newspaper, cans and bottles in the bins provided by our local government. Recycling construction debris is more involved, but with a little extra effort and some cooperation between remodeling contractors and homeowners, it can be very successful. Let’s look at what can be recycled in a remodeling project or when tearing down an old house.
Starting at the top, most roofs are covered with asphalt or fiberglass composite shingles. These can be recycled into a gravel-like material that is used as a base for driveways, roads and parking lots. After the roofing comes off, roof decking, rafters and other framing material to be removed. Many older homes were built with heart pine lumber, a rare and valuable material that can be salvaged and re-milled into things like flooring, trim and cabinets. Any unpainted lumber can be ground into mulch and used for erosion control or plant bedding. Some framing lumber is easily reused once the nails are removed from it.
Masonry and concrete are easily recycled. Landscape contractors may be interested in older bricks, which they can use to build walls and walkways. Broken or unusable bricks, concrete block and clay roof tiles can be ground into gravel.
Homes undergoing kitchen renovations and living area renovations are full of treasures that can be re-purposed. Cabinets, appliances, doors, windows, plumbing fixtures, lighting and flooring can be reused or donated to nonprofit organizations like Habitat for Humanity that reuse or resell them to support their programs. Copper wiring and piping, aluminum gutters and other non-ferrous metals provide a reasonable return on the time spent. The packaging that products arrive in is a major source of jobsite trash. Cardboard boxes, wood pallets and clear plastic all can be recycled, often removed at no cost by salvage companies. A little planning and jobsite management can reduce renovation waste by more than 50 percent, providing both cost savings and environmental benefits long after construction is complete.