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Not A Pretty Picture
Another trashy photo, but unlike last week’s image of carpet heading to Shaw’s carpet reclamation program, this stuff isn’t on its way to recycling. It’s headed for the landfill.
I took the photo at a demolition site. Everything on the left side – a mixed bag of metal, glass, wood, cardboard and various plastics is being loaded into the truck on the right and crushed into an inseparable mass of trash. It was painful to watch.
This property was obviously being demolished rather than deconstructed – a more labor intensive and costly process. However, our buildings should be valued for what we can mine from them. In many jurisdictions, the average cost per ton for disposal of materials far exceeds the cost of recycling. Example: the deconstruction of a small abandoned and dilapidated house in Philadelphia diverted bricks, lumber, metal and architectural features from disposal with a total realized value for the recovered materials of more than $7500. Seriously, you want to bury that?
Let’s not forget – landfills, even the best of them, delay but don’t eliminate soil and groundwater contamination from hazardous toxins like chlorinated solvents and heavy metals, and the resulting endangerment to public health can be deadly.
USGBC and the LEED points for Construction Waste Management are certainly driving material recovery efforts and the market for used products. Some of the most aggressive efforts are diverting 90 percent or more of construction waste from landfills. Numbers like these are more likely achieved with a specialty demolition and waste management team on the project, capable of sorting mixed loads of debris.
Search out these companies in your locality or you can do your own research. EPA has a handy listing of resources by material type. For an in-depth look at the issues, read the results of an EPA survey, Analyzing What’s Recyclable in C&D Debris. Wish these folks had.