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The Construction 3Rs Guide

By Larraine Roulston:

The Canadian construction industry generates 9 million tons of demolition waste annually. Almost everywhere, we see buildings or residential homes under construction, renovation or demolition. Think about all the material required to erect new structures and where most materials end up when buildings are upgraded or demolished. 

 Justin Havre, a realtor in Calgary, Alberta, is well aware of clients looking at new homes and those they plan to renovate. He began thinking about all the waste generated in the course of making improvements. He stated, “There’s a lot of waste that occurs during the construction and deconstruction of homes. As a side project, I wanted to make something comprehensive that addresses different parts of the house, inside and out, to show people just how much of their home could potentially be recycled or reused. As an added note — while the focus of this piece is on the home — I could see this information being useful for businesses as well.” In order to bring about awareness and to encourage less wastefulness, Havre and fellow realtors developed a recycling guide for contractors and residents. “My team and I recently created a resource for households looking to reduce waste during large renovation and/or demolition projects — or potentially even just people looking to see if they can recycle or repurpose some part of their home they are wanting to replace,” he added.

 While knowing which items can be recycled and which are marketable in each region, Havre believes that the guide he and his colleagues have prepared will go a long way in making people think critically about all the unnecessary waste that gets dumped into landfills. Making the effort to separate and clean useful materials will help ensure that they can be reused, repurposed or recycled.

 His home-component recycling guide’s table of contents includes a lengthy waste-free solution encompassing items from concrete to roofing materials. Havre notes, “As homeowners start to think about their demolition or remodeling plans, they can go down this list and decide where to place their focus. It can also guide efforts to research local facilities and organizations that can handle the recycling burden, or direct the existing materials to people who can reuse them.”

 Two common examples of debris are gypsum and flooring. In the case of old gypsum, also known as drywall or wallboard, recycling companies can process it and add other raw materials to create new gypsum. Floor tiles that are intact should be taken to thrift stores such as the Habitat for Humanity ReStores. Even a small number of tiles are quite useful for someone to lay in a small space like a closet. Residents looking to renovate should align themselves with contractors who share their 3Rs values. 

 Can you recycle an entire house? How many building materials can you name that have the potential to be reclaimed? View the following link to check your score. Share this link with your municipal officials, home purchasing friends, social media, contractors and recycling facility. Presently, waste-free advocates are making it easier for those working in construction to reuse and recycle more effectively. Havre’s broad and comprehensive work inspires me to address each home component separately in future articles.

 Related Link:


 Larraine writes children’s adventure books on composting and pollinating. To view, visit www.castlecompost.com 

About Larraine Roulston

A mother of 4 with 6 wonderful grandchildren, Larraine has been active in the environmental movement since the early l970s. When the first blue boxes for recycling were launched in her region, she began writing a local weekly newspaper column to promote the 3Rs. Since that time, she has been a freelance writer for several publications, including BioCycle magazine. As a composting advocate, Larraine authors children's adventure stories that combine composting facts with literature. Currently she is working on the 6th book of her Pee Wee at Castle Compost series, which can be viewed at www.castlecompost.com. As well, Larraine and her husband Pete have built a straw bale home and live in Ontario.

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