Planning is an important part of any remodeling project, and that’s certainly true when it comes to waste management
. Most remodeling projects will include some demolition and disposal of old materials. More often than not, those goods end up in landfills.
But they don’t have to. The Construction Materials Recycling Association
, a recycling trade association, estimates “325 million tons of recoverable construction and demolition materials are generated in the United States annually.” If recycling is important to you, it’s worth thinking about how to incorporate it into the project before you get started. Asking some key questions in advance can save a lot of time, trouble and even money down the road.
1. What can you recycle?
Probably more than you think. There is metal and wood, of course, but drywall and asphalt roof shingles are examples of some unusual home products that can get a second life by recycling.
Susan Welker, founder and principal architect at Harris Welker Architects
in Austin, TX, suggests creating a waste management plan for your project. “It’s usually done for commercial projects, but why not do it at home?” she asks. The plan will help you think through what (and how) different items can be recycled. King County, WA’s Solid Waste Division has a sample waste management template
on its website that can prove helpful.
2. What can you reuse?
Believe it or not, there are plenty of organizations itching for your old bathroom vanity or those sliding cabinet doors. Habitat for Humanity has ReStore
centers, many of which sell secondhand building materials to raise money for the charity, all over the country. Many communities also have standalone building materials reuse programs, such as the ReBuilding Center
in Portland or The ReCONNstruction Center
in New Britain, CT.
Some of those old components may even be handy in your own home. Can an old set of bathroom cabinets provide extra storage space in the garage? Could that unfashionable carpet keep a four-legged frien warm in a doghouse? If reused materials are going back into the home, it’s worth checking to make sure they meet current code requirements, Welker says.
Welker also suggests thinking about a home deconstruction company
rather than a demolition crew. These folks are specially trained to take apart rooms or even complete houses with an eye toward reuse.
3. Will your contractor participate in your recycling plan?
Some contractors may applaud your efforts to be green, but others may not. If you are planning to hire a contractor for your project, ask about his or her willingness to keep recycling bins on site and separate materials while working. The U.S. Green Building Council’s Green Home Guide
is one resource that can help guide you to professionals committed to environmentally sound building practices.
4. Do new products really have the recycled content you want?
Installing products made from recycled materials is a great way to keep a home green. However, “Manufacturers’ claims are not always an effective way to determine if your product really has recycled materials,” Welker cautions. Greenwashing
is so common these days that it’s best to look for products that are certified by a third party.