Home Improvement and Recycling

Americans spend over $200 billion annually on home improvement projects. These projects can vary from repainting a room to a whole-house renovation, but the one thing they all have in common is the generation of waste and debris. According to the EPA, an estimated 170 million tons of construction and demolition waste was generated in 2003, and only 20% of that material was recycled or reused. The good news is, with a strategic plan in place at the start of a project, the majority of construction waste can be reused onsite, salvaged, donated or recycled.

Using deconstruction VS demolition methods for renovation projects saves money by reducing the need to purchase new materials, as well as pay landfill charges for disposing of waste. Deconstruction is the systematic disassembly of a structure that preserves the materials and fixtures for reuse and recycling, versus demolition which largely destroys most of the materials. Intact materials and fixtures that will match the desired look of the final project can be incorporated into the renovation; remaining materials can be salvaged for sale or donation.

Salvageable materials include lumber, hardware (knobs and hinges), sinks, faucets, appliances, lighting and plumbing fixtures, doors, furniture, and so on. Charitable organizations like Habitat for Humanity or Goodwill readily accept these materials. (Material acceptance criteria varies, so check with your local branch first.) Materials that cannot be reused or salvaged are often recyclable. Commonly recycled construction waste materials include masonry scrap and rubble (concrete, brick, and stone), cardboard packaging, metal pipes and wires, pallets, dimensional lumber, etc. Other materials such as carpet and padding are accepted by some recycling services providers as well.

Even after reuse, salvage, and recycling options have been exhausted, there will likely be waste leftover from a renovation project. These materials are often too bulky and heavy to place in an ordinary trash can, but might not require a full-size dumpster. Waste Management offers a convenient and cost effective solution for construction debris called, Bagster. The Bagster is literally a 3-yard dumpster in a bag that can hold up to 3,300 pounds. They are available for purchase at most home improvement retailers. Once the Bagster is filled with waste, the user can schedule a pickup either online or by phone. With a reuse, salvage, and recycling plan in place at the start of a project, the remaining waste will be at a minimum.

For more information about reuse, recycle and salvage options, visit Waste Management at http://www.wm.com or click here to find a local Waste Management facility.

About the Author

Waste Management

Waste Management, Inc. is North America's leading provider of integrated environmental solutions. We partner with our customers and communities to manage and reduce waste from collection to disposal while recovering valuable resources and creating clean, renewable energy.

Our 45,000 employees are committed to Environmental Performance — our mission to maximize resource value, while minimizing environmental impact so that both our economy and our environment can thrive. Serving over 20 million residential, industrial, municipal and commercial customers, Waste Management posted $12.52 billion of revenues in 2010.

Drawing on our resources and experience, we actively pursue projects and initiatives that benefit the waste industry, the communities we serve and the environment.

• Waste Management uses waste to create enough energy to power more than 1 million homes every year. By 2020, we expect to double that output, creating enough energy to power more than 2 million homes.

• As North America’s largest recycler, Waste Management managed more than 7 million tons of recyclable commodities in 2009. By the year 2020, we expect to increase the amount of material we manage to more than 20 million tons per year.

• By the end of 2009, Waste Management had 119 landfill-gas-to-energy projects producing 540 megawatts of power, the equivalent of powering approximately 400,000 homes.

• At the end of 2009, we had more than 800 natural gas-powered trucks in our fleet, with plans to add 200 more in 2010. During the year, we also used technology to reduce the fuel burn of every truck in our fleet. When fully implemented, this is expected to save 9 million gallons of fuel per year.

• Our wholly owned subsidiary Wheelabrator Technologies owns or operates 16 waste-to-energy plants and five independent power production facilities in the U.S. that generate enough energy to power more than 900,000 homes.

• Through a joint venture with the Linde Group, we have built a plant that converts landfill gas into liquefied natural gas for use as fuel in our trucks. The facility is currently producing 13,000 gallons per day.

• At the end of 2009, we had a total of 73 WHC-certified sites. We also set a goal to have 25,000 acres dedicated solely to nature preservation by 2020, and we have nearly reached that goal: at year-end, we had 24,000 protected acres.

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