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Play It Again, Sam - and Again - and Again
Crossville’s Echo Recycled Glass Tiles
Specifying and using building products with recycled content has long been an important green strategy. It isn’t just a matter of earning LEED points, or keeping materials out of landfills; reusing as much as we possibly can for as long as we can is an essential component of waste management.
Mining what we already have for the raw materials we need is the value of recycled content. Yes, it takes energy to recycle materials but look at these numbers: recycled steel requires only 26% of the energy needed to produce new product; recycled copper requires only 15% of the energy and recycled aluminum requires only 5%.
It’s also useful to know the customary recycled content of common building products.
Structural Steel 95%
Sheet Steel 32%
Flat rolled aluminum 80%
Acoustic ceiling tile 23 - 87%
Fiberglass batt insulation 25%
Synthetic Gypsum Board 99%
Ceramic Tile 50%
Composite Wood Panels 99%
Synthetic Stone Countertops 99%
Of course your mileage may vary depending on the manufacturer so check carefully before choosing a specific material. Third-party certification, such as Scientific Certification Systems (SCS), of recycled content claims is important and valuable.
Also recognize that not all recycled content is equal, with post-consumer products harder to come by and therefore more valued than pre-consumer or post-industrial goods. Though published in 2005, the Environmental Building News report on recycled content is still a good primer.
Another interesting read is the 2009 Annual Recycling Search Report published by Earth 911. It lists the products most recycled by consumers by category (electronics), product (computers) and state (California). Construction products came in as the 10th category, with paint leading the product list.