It’s Time to Take Material Reuse Mainstream

FreshKills Park Blog
noticed that the Reuse Conference and Expo, the first national reuse conference in the U.S., is coming to Raleigh, North Carolina in October. The conference is organized by the Reuse Alliance. Garth Johnson, author of “1,000 Ideas for Creative Reuse,” will provide the keynote address.

According to the E.P.A., only 40 percent of building and construction material is now “recycled, reused, or sent to waste-to-energy facilities, while the remaining 60 percent of the materials is sent to C&D landfills.”

The Reuse Alliance defines reuse, which differs from recycling: “Reuse is using an item more than once. This includes conventional reuse where the item is used again for the same function or repurposing where it is used for a new function. In contrast, recycling is the breaking down of the used item into raw materials which are used to make new items. By taking useful products and exchanging them, without reprocessing, reuse help us save time, money, energy and resources. In broader economic terms, reuse offers quality products to people and organizations with limited means, while generating jobs and business activity that contribute to the economy.” Indeed, one of Majora Carter’s main arguments is that economically depressed inner-city communities, which are often the sites of massive waste depots, could instead become bases for higher-value recycling and reuse industries (see earlier post).

TreeHugger says the alliance has a broad-based membership, including environmental and community organizations and charities, as well as the retail, IT, food, furniture, and entertainment industries. The E.P.A. is also involved.

The conference will cover a range of material reuse topics of interest to landscape architects, architects, and other design professionals, including:

  • Adaptive Reuse / Building Materials Reuse
  • Traditional Reuse / New Salvage
  • Designing for Reuse, Refurbishing & Remanufacturing
  • Creative Reuse, Upcycling & Repurposing
  • School/University Reuse
  • Online Materials Exchanges
  • Corporate Reuse
  • Making Events Green with Reusables
  • Connection between Reuse and Climate Change
  • Reuse as the “Original Green Collar Job”
  • Economics of Reuse
  • Reuse Sector best practices
  • Reuse in Environmental Education
  • Cooperative marketing campaigns
  • Community Activism and Reuse
  • Reuse and Public Policy
  • Reuse and Technology

For design professionals trying to make the case for adding reused materials into their projects, the Reuse Alliance cites a few useful ways to measure the environmental, social, and economic benefits:

  • # of tons diverted from the landfill
  • $ avoided dispoal costs (donor/seller)
  • $ avoided purchase costs (recipient/buyer)
  • $ value of materials donated (donor)
  • $ revenues earned (donor/seller)
  • # of job created or retained
  • # of families/individuals/organizations assisted

To add, tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions can also be avoided through reuse processes.

Learn more about the conference and view more reuse resources from the E.P.A.

Also, check out the work of Andrea Cochran, FASLA, who creatively reuses materials such as wood and construction material in her award-winning landscapes.

Image credit: Reclaimed cypress wood benches / ASLA 2007 Professional Awards, General Design Honor Award. Curran House, San Francisco, California. Andrea Cochran Landscape Architecture, San Francisco, California

One thought on “It’s Time to Take Material Reuse Mainstream

  1. Janice 07/16/2010 / 7:45 pm

    Thanks for your article on It’s Time to Take Material Reuse Mainstream. I was particularly interested in the useful ways to measure the environmental, social, and economic benefits.
    I work for McGraw Hill. Their Sweets Network if full of wonderful solutions. Check them out for building supplies. building supplies

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