Benefits of Reuse
Reuse is the process of using an item again. Items can be reused for their original purpose, or for a new & creative function. Identifying and saving reusable building materials is where it all begins and is the lifeblood of LBC.
Material reuse is a sustainable way to divert construction waste destined for landfills. Material reuse can creates a number of financial benefits for communities by lowering disposal costs, reducing tax liabilities for material donors and providing access to low-cost or free building materials. Deconstruction, or the selective removal of building materials for reuse, also helps create green jobs; for every one job created through demolition, 7 jobs can be generated through deconstruction. Material reuse also has many positive environmental impacts, such as reducing the extraction of natural resources to create virgin materials and lowering greenhouse gas emissions created by the manufacture and transport of new materials.
Part of LBC’s mission is to expand awareness about the benefits of reuse and increase access to the tools, information and resources needed to engage in the reuse process. It is estimated that approximately 1,300 material reuse centers operate in the U.S, yet only 20 percent of homeowners are aware that these resources exist. Through partnerships with the Build Reuse and EPA’s Sustainable Materials Management program, LBC is working to increase awareness about reuse, help citizens participate in the process and implement policies which encourage material reuse.
There is a significant need for material reuse in the construction and demolition industry. Building materials, or construction & demolition (C&D) waste, represent approximately 40% of everything thrown away in the United States each year.
The shocking fact is that 90 percent of these discarded materials can be recycled or reused. Organizations like LBC ensure that these materials are put back to use within the local community instead of ending up in landfills. As millions of tons of wasted materials accumulate in landfills every year, it is useful to remember that the disposal of these materials has impacts on the environment and our communities. As Ray C Anderson Foundation’s Executive Director John Lanier put it in LBC’s Building The Lifecycle video, “there really isn’t an away.” These discarded materials are cabinets that could be reinstalled in someone’s home at a fraction of new material costs; doors that could be repurposed into furniture; reclaimed carpet tile that can be installed in a church or school. Each discarded material represents a missed opportunity to convert “waste” into community wealth and resilience.
Reuse vs Recycle
Reuse is sometimes confused with recycling or mistakenly interchanged. Material reuse requires less energy than recycling due to the fact that materials are repurposed in their original state instead of being broken down and reprocessed into a new material. By collecting reusable materials for reuse, many benefits are realized, including:
Allows for quality materials to be available to individuals and organizations with limited means at a fraction of new material costs.
Reduces project expenses by avoiding typical disposal costs.
Helps create jobs. LBC’s partnership with Georgia Works! since 2016 continues to flourish, with skills training and temporary employment provided to over 50 men transitioning from homelessness and incarceration and the hiring of 2 program graduates by LBC.
Conserves natural resources
Before disposing of materials, remember the waste management hierarchy “Reduce > Reuse > Recycle.” Recycling is a great option when reuse is not possible but, in many cases, reuse does provide maximum benefits to individuals, our communities and the environment.