Demolishing Waste

They’ve started the balcony renovations on my building. The whole place is draped in blue tarps. It is an eerie, muted environment to live in, that is, the light is muted, not the sounds of demolition. I am forced to keep my drapes closed too; all day long I see shadowy men who walk on the scaffolding or on the diminishing balcony. On the lower floors, the entire patios are now part of the construction zone and used to gather and sort the materials. Not everything can just be dumped wholesale at the landfill anymore. Deconstruction and salvaging materials for reuse in new buildings is the best practice for progressive companies. Clearly not everyone knows that. Yesterday I spotted a resident from my building cleaning up his patio, throwing all the debris over the fence into the alley. I found out later that he threw it all into the construction waste bin. So nothing was sorted and likely recyclable materials will wind up at the landfill. If they are caught and fined, then that expense will be passed on to our strata and residents. Never mind that he is not permitted in the construction area. It is a mystery how he actually got in, as the patio doors are blocked.

Waste from the construction, demolition and renovation sectors makes up about a third of the region’s waste. According to the Metro Van web site, wood waste from residents and businesses accounts for 22% of it. More than half of the construction and demolition related wastes can be recycled and have no business being thrown away. Many items are already banned from the landfill, like gypsum drywall, concrete with heavy rebar, any materials with asbestos, wood waste and more. Metro Vancouver has a great BuildSmart guide on their web site, a tool kit for Demolition, Land Clearing and Construction with a list of banned materials.

In Vancouver alone, about 62 houses are torn down every month with 40 tonnes of materials generated from each home. Last March, as part of its Greenest City Initiative, the City of Vancouver ran a pilot home deconstruction and renovation project with 20 inner city youth. More than 86% of the construction materials from the two homes was recycled. Windows, hardwood floors, lumber, and more all diverted from the landfill and incinerator.

The City of Vancouver is now working on policies that will support the deconstruction industry in Vancouver.

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