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Repurposing, Recycling Must Be Encouraged In Construction

Repurposing, Recycling Must Be Encouraged In Construction

Oct 2, 2019 1:11:22 PM / by Don Magruder, CEO RoMac Building Supply

You would think that someone whose livelihood depends on selling building materials would have a negative view of repurposing and recycling building materials. However, I don’t. In fact, our society and construction paradigms need to change. Americans are some of the most wasteful people on the planet and what we throw in the landfill would be accepted and used by most of the world as premium materials.

There are two main reasons for this wasteful attitude. First, many of us want materials and products to be “set-it, forget-it, and replace-it.” Most of us have no desire to fix and repair. Second, there is no incentive for businesses to not be wasteful—just the opposite. It’s cheaper and quicker for a business or homeowner to bring the bulldozer along with a dumpster to a project than repurpose the material in it.

The reason why our society must change is that the gap between those who have and those who have not is widening daily and the prospects of a debt-laden economic turndown will only exacerbate an already big problem. In America, right now, there are people who are homeless or who live in substandard housing and they have no idea how they will pay their rent this week. Concurrently in America, there is substandard and dilapidated housing available that is in desperate need of improvement, but the owners or tenants do not have the financial means to do the work. The key to improving this housing issue is repurposing and recycling building materials.

Not until the 1990s, when gentrification of neighborhoods became so prevalent, did bulldozing houses become so popular. Because affordable housing was always in demand, most homes were remodeled. Or, if they were torn down, typically much of the material was repurposed. During the Great Depression and World War II, nothing was thrown away and it was repurposed until it had no value. Millions of homes have been remodeled and built from homes where the material originated in another structure. Affordable housing and the working poor need that material just as much today.

Think about all the items in a home that can be repurposed — doors, locks, trim, lumber, siding, plywood, lighting fixtures, plumbing supplies, electrical supplies and HVAC. Every day, homes are being bulldozed where thousands of dollars in supplies could be used to fix up the homes of the poor and disadvantaged. To encourage this type of recycling and repurposing of materials, the government should pass laws, which gives property owners and builders immunity against injury and damage if they allow someone to repurpose material out of the home. In addition, incentives for recycling and repurposing should be offered to encourage better resource management. We should not be filling up landfills with materials that can be recycled or repurposed — it makes perfect sense for everyone.

I get it — there are many who are not interested in going to a home or business that is being demolished to take out used items. However, you probably don’t have a busted sink, unhinged door, or missing window in your home. A few years ago, I visited an older home that was scheduled to be bulldozed, which had just been remodeled. The new property owner was building a new home. Although this contained new vanities, doors, windows, and other products that could have been salvaged, this material was not saved because the builder was on a deadline. What a waste!

By encouraging the repurposing and recycling of building materials from older structures, America is once again encouraging people to help themselves as well as develop construction skills. Many carpenters were created in the past out of necessity and these materials can help reestablish the first rung in the housing ladder.

There is a major affordable and substandard housing crisis in America. If the economic gap continues to widen in our society, millions more will be left with nowhere to call home. Stopping the waste in the construction industry through repurposing building materials is not the total answer, but it is a good tangible starting point, and we need to start finding answers. To someone in substandard housing an old door is better than no door.

Don Magruder is the CEO of RoMac Building Supply. He is also the host of the Around the House TV show on LSTV and LakeSumterTV.com at 1 and 6:30 p.m. Monday, Wednesday and Friday; at 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday; and at 7 a.m., Noon and 6 p.m. Saturday.

Topics: Repurposing Building Materials