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Research: Recycling buildings makes dollars and sense

George Goodwin, left, and James "Gator" Johnson of Micanopy, Florida, salvage materials from a Victorian-era house downtown.  

December 20, 1999
Web posted at: 12:21 p.m. EST (1721 GMT)

It is economically viable and environmentally beneficial to recycle specific building components instead of sending them to the local landfill, according to University of Florida researchers.

The researchers have developed computer software that helps contractors and developers decide what components are worth recycling and which make more economic sense as landfill waste.

Saving the environment

There will be stuff that is disposed of because it is not cost-effective to reuse," said Bradley Guy, director of the university's Center for Construction and the Environment.

The software allows contractors and developers to plug in variables such as local landfill tipping fees, labor costs and market value of used building materials.

The software also provides a database of Internet links to contractors, suppliers and retailers of recycled products, complete with online product inventory and cost data.

The construction and demolition industries produce 136 million tons of waste per year in the United States. Only eight percent of the waste is from new construction.

Recycling building components can reduce that waste by as much as 75 percent.

It also can provide 10 times more jobs in the industry for the same cost as sending all waste to the landfill, according to studies conducted by Guy.

Recycling buildings requires a careful disassembly of the structure, separating waste from materials still of value. Some of the most valuable items are heavy timber, hard pine flooring, cabinets, and ceiling and attic fans, said Guy. Bricks are not so valuable because they are difficult to dismantle and recover.

University of Florida researchers are working with local businesses, nonprofit groups and the U.S. military to help assess buildings for their recycling value. Guy sees promise for this approach to demolition in the future.

"In general, we can't be such a disposing society. We have been on a hay ride of construction and throwing stuff away, and we are going to come up against restraints."

Copyright 1999, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved

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University of Florida
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