ReCycle North Salvages Materials in Deconstruction

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(Host) For the last 11 years, Burlington’s ReCycle North has dedicated itself to the repair and re-use of household items, such as appliances, furniture and electronics. They’ve now turned their attention to house deconstruction.

VPR’s Neal Charnoff reports.

(ReCycle North staff) (Sound of drilling) “Essentially, its reverse carpentry. We take houses apart in the reverse order they’re built, so we can salvage the material.”

(Charnoff) In Middlebury, workers from ReCycle North are taking apart a house, and carefully salvaging building material for reuse. Normally, the structure would be demolished, and the debris carted off to a landfill. But thanks to a new program developed by Burlington’s ReCycle North, roughly 80% of the building material can be salvaged for sale or donation.

The Building Material Reuse and Deconstruction Service was developed about two years ago. The project involves three goals: the service substantially reduces the buildup of solid waste; it provides employment and vocational training; and it provides poverty relief, as material can be resold or donated.

Matt McKinney is the ReCycle North Deconstruction Manager. He says a structure is best taken apart in the reverse order that it was built.

(McKinney) “We can salvage as much material as possible by doing it that way. We use hand tools instead of using a lot of power tools. We also have the ability to separate materials¿ just like in any recycling, source separation is important. Pulling the metal out separate from the wood, taking the sheet rock off separate from the insulation, so you can not only reuse that stuff but also recycle a lot of the waste. A certain amount of waste is generated with any demolition or deconstruction project, but we can reduce that by doing it carefully by hand.”

(Charnoff) McKinney says about 80% of the material can be saved from going to a landfill. A typical project takes about a week to a week and a half. Twenty deconstruction projects were completed in the program’s first year.

ReCycle North staffers recently traveled to Washington to lead deconstruction training for 48 low income men and women. Those trainees will then deconstruct a public housing complex in southeast Washington. It will be the single largest deconstruction project yet attempted in the U.S.

Tom Longstreth is executive director for ReCycle North. He hopes that re-use is an idea that will move beyond the world of non-profit companies.

(Longstreth) “We really want to create something that we can use as a model to help other organizations get this thing started. Also our goal is to help contractors and to try to teach contractors, help contractors understand that this is a viable alternative to demolition. And in some cases it’s much less expensive, and it has all these other social and environmental benefits.”

ReCycle North donates a portion of reusable materials to other non-profits, such as Habitat for Humanity. Other materials are resold at the company’s Reuse Center in Burlington.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Neal Charnoff in Burlington.

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