Building or renovating a home is a messy process. But few of us realize how extravagantly wasteful the process is, and that fully a quarter of all waste generated in the US — several hundred million tons annually — comes from demolition and construction. Salvage businesses that recycle some of that waste aren’t a new concept, but organizations that couple the recycling ethos with broader more civic and social-minded have begun to spring up.
Craig Varterian, director of non-profit Reclaim Detroit, says his organization is helping to prevent landfill waste while also battling urban blight, and offering meaningful work training in the process. “Our mandate is to salvage these materials instead of throwing them in a landfill, so that’s the environmental impact,” Varterian says. “But there’s also a social impact in removing the blight, and an economic impact in terms of job training and creation. And on top of that a lot of industries are being established around the raw materials we produce — from furniture makers and craftspeople and so on.”
Varterian says his organization works with individuals as well as the city, and gets hired to come in and do partial deconstruction or even total demolition of blighted or unwanted properties. He says that while the process is far more expensive than the standard wrecking ball, the long term benefits are far greater: “Whatever we pull out of a house, the economic benefit is five times the amount of the actual cost of the material.” Reclaim has already trained some 300 workers with new construction related skill sets, and says that number should skyrocket come the building season next spring.
Varterian and his associate, Jeremy Haines, spoke with us about the materials you should keep an eye out for when doing renovation work in your home, as well as items that are better as salvage then buying new.