Studyshows economics of recycling

Published on Thu, Aug 10, 2006 by ara Nelson

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Study shows economics of recycling

By Tara Nelson

A study completed by the Bellingham-based RE Store suggests that their “hybrid” method of deconstruction, reuse and recycling can be as – if not more – cost effective as conventional demolition services.

The study was funded by a grant from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) given to regional non-profit organizations to study the economic viability of building deconstruction.

Domenic Calabro, an environmental protection specialist with the EPA’s northwest regional office in Seattle, said the grants are offered as part of the EPA’s Resource Conservation Challenge, a program that promotes energy efficiency and the minimization of construction waste.
“Construction waste and debris is a significant portion of the solid waste stream,” Calabro said. “It’s obvious that a recycling and reuse program would be better environmentally because those materials would not be going into the landfill but also economically for the consumer who can purchase those materials at a discounted rate.”

The RE Store’s deconstruction crew used the grant to compile a series of case studies of four Whatcom County buildings, one of which was the former PACCAN building in Blaine.

Jason Darling, RE Store outreach and marketing manager, said the nearly 10,000-foot building located at 183 C Street was chosen as a project because of its size and relatively young age.

The study found that approximately 70 percent of the building was salvageable and contained almost 50,000 pounds of reusable material, which included high-quality plywood, lumber, aluminum doors and windows.

“The lumber we got out of the PACCAN was just amazing,” he said. “Every piece was as straight and true as you could possibly dream of. We also got a lot of insulation that we were able to resell.”

In addition, crews found a number of large metal desks and office chairs left behind from previous tenants that could easily be reused or recycled.
The total value of building materials salvaged from the PACCAN building was approximately $8,500, the study found. The materials were transported to the RE Store’s retail outlet in Bellingham for resale.

Out of the four total projects, RE Store deconstruction crews dismantled approximately 13,625 square feet of building, salvaging an estimated $28,000 worth of reusable materials and saving approximately 244,000 pounds of materials from being disposed of in a landfill, according to the study.

The cost of the RE Store’s deconstruction service with disposal fees for the PACCAN building was $10,228, compared to two quotes from conventional demolition firms of $9,850 and $10,500.

Part of that cost difference can be recouped through tax incentives, Darling said.

“The RE Store, because of its status as a non-profit, is also able to offer our clients the added benefit of a tax deduction for the total value of their donation of salvaged building materials,” he said, adding that one of his clients recently reported he broke even.

Darling, however, said many of the RE Store’s customers are considering other, non-economic factors when making the decision to shop at the business’s retail outlet or hire its deconstruction services.

“More of our customers see the value in being an environmental steward,” he said. “They see the value beyond just the immediacy of here and now. It’s called voting with your dollar.”

Erin Marden, manager of the store’s deconstruction division, said those non-economic factors include less noise pollution on surrounding neighborhoods, reducing the need to manufacture new building materials, and the often unique character of re-used materials that can add novelty and distinction to a home.

“(One of the benefits) is the vast factors of the resources saved and toxins never produced, by reducing the need to make new materials,” Marden said. “The amounts of intense energy and toxic compounds are immense in the manufacture of building materials. The deconstruction process takes longer, but has less impact.”

Darling said part of the RE Store’s mission as a non-profit organization is to conduct research and that the information found in the study will be sent to regional and industry-wide publications in construction, demolition and recycling fields.

“It feels really good to be contributing to the growing body of statistical evidence that supports the viability of what we’re doing,” he said.

The RE Store is located at 600 West Holly Street in Bellingham and is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Saturday and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Sunday. They can be reached by calling 647-5921.
The store’s second annual Rockin’ at the RE Store fundraiser is scheduled from 6 to 10 p.m. September 15.

The event is to help raise a down payment for the store’s new location and will include music, food, games and auction.
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