When it comes to moving, remodeling, or renovating it’s important to consider the financial and environmental costs of waste disposal for the items you no longer need or want. The process of demolition, where building materials are smashed with heavy machinery, fills up dumpsters very quickly. The standard protocol to dispose of unwanted building materials is to throw them in a dumpster and send them to a landfill. There is an alternative: these unwanted building materials have the potential to be reused and reinstalled into new homes through the process of deconstruction. Deconstruction is the careful disassembly of a building so that the materials inside can be reused in a new space. While this process can take longer than traditional demolition, 70% of building materials can be recycled, and 25% can be reused. Deconstruction is a more environmentally conscious alternative to demolition.

Over the last century in the U.S., the number of landfills has dramatically increased to accommodate the growing population’s waste disposal needs. The U.S. has 3,091 active landfills, and according to the Environmental Protection Agency, demolition contributes more than 90% of total construction and demolition (C&D) waste to landfills. It is estimated that America produced 548 million tons of C&D waste in 2015. The danger with landfills is that their emissions, such as methane are hazardous to the environment. Not only do landfills emit greenhouse gasses, but we’re quickly running out of space to accommodate the amount of waste disposed of annually; the Northeast is running out of landfill space the fastest, according to a new report by the Solid Waste Environmental Excellence Protocol (SWEEP).

By diverting usable materials from the landfill through deconstruction and reuse, not only can you prevent waste, but you reduce the need for new materials to be produced. The environmental impact of doing so is staggering:

  • Deconstruction reduces climate-altering greenhouse gas emissions from landfills and incinerators.
  • It reduces the need for more toxic landfills.
  • It reduces the harmful effects of natural resource extraction, transportation, and energy consumption for new building materials.
  • It recycles useable material for reuse and creative repurposing.
  • It keeps material local, reducing additional adverse harvesting, mining, and transportation effects.

Additionally, donating to stores like EcoBuilding Bargains (CET’s reuse store), that resell high quality reclaimed materials at a fraction of what they would cost new, makes home improvement more affordable for more people.

EcoBuilding Bargains is the largest reclaimed building materials store in New England. Each year, EcoBuilding Bargains supports CET’s mission by preventing over 300 tons of building materials from being dumped into landfills. If you’re interested in deconstruction, EcoBuilding Bargains can work with you and your contractor to make it possible. In addition to the environmental impact, we have a convenient free pick-up service which can save on disposal fees, and as a non-profit, your project may qualify for a tax deduction. Learn more about how you can donate usable building materials here.