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Defeat the Debris: How to Dispose of Construction Waste

Remodeling? You can reduce your renovation "waste" line in four easy steps.

| May/June 2007

Of the many things to consider when remodeling your home, finding eco-friendly ways to manage deconstruction waste should top your list of ways to reduce your project’s environmental impact. As you contemplate the improved energy efficiency of your new appliances, purchase countertops made from recycled materials and select low-VOC paint, keep in mind one large, often-overlooked thing: What will you do with the construction debris, fixtures and appliances you remove, and the rest of the so-called trash?

Construction, demolition and remodeling typically create an enormous amount of waste. According to the most recent Environmental Protection Agency study, the waste generated during U.S. residential renovations during 1996 added up to more than 31 million tons. A major kitchen redo might generate more than 60 pounds of debris for each square foot, for a total of about 5 tons. A whole-house remodel could pile up a whopping 13 tons of waste. That’s a heap of trash headed to the landfill, along with a heap of environmental concerns.

A truly green remodel requires careful planning and management of the “leftovers.” Waste control takes more time and effort than money. To simplify it for you, we’ve outlined four steps for your next home improvement project that maximize potential reuse and recycling while minimizing the trash.

Step 1: Plan Ahead to Reduce Waste

• Before you begin, evaluate the project for ways to prevent waste.

• Design wisely. Work closely with the builder, architect or designer to maximize the use of space and existing features. Rather than adding on, is it possible to rearrange? Is there an underused room that might be adapted? Can that sink, light fixture or cabinet be reused rather than replaced?

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