Joseph Laquatra: The construction if a single family home in the united states generates between two to four tons of debris.
JL: About 90 percent of that can be recycled
JL Gradually people started to pay attention to this issue, builders when they were forced to.
Gerald Contento: It’s mandatory now but we’ve made it in each home – each home has to recycle so it’s coming and it’s growing and growing.
GC: This is where the non-ferrous goes, like the aluminum doors and stuff we’ll take off the buildings and then we’ll bring them in here and we sheer them up then they put them in bails – the bails like you see on the back wall there.
GC: What he’s doing is he’s taking the plastic out of the door frames and the windows, they start out like this when they come out of the buildings and then they’ll end up basically in the bails where they’ll go to be re-melted and reused.
GC: We have the guys who do the demolition work, we have the guys that primarily stay here on the yard and do the recycling, and then we have the truck drivers.
GC: This was in walls and stuff and we’ve crushed the concrete off of it and then we’ll send it to the foundry to be recycled.
GC: These were probably holding up a wall somewhere and now they’ll be in a new high beam maybe holding a bridge up. Who knows?
GC: We’re like the grim reaper of the building but someone’s been there and taken the counter tops out and the kitchens out if they’re worth anything at all. So, when I get there I rarely see anything really great.
GC: We have to look at efficiency; we have to look at transportation and everything — every aspect of it and my goal is that as soon as we get there we do everything as quickly and efficiently and safely as possible.
JL: People are becoming more aware of climate change and the affect of our own individual carbon footprint on that. There is interest in doing what we can to reduce that impact.
GC: Each day we see people that we’ve never seen before that come here that come here to recycle their aluminum cans and aluminum foils and stuff that they would have never thought about before.
Erich Kruger: Finger Lakes ReUse is about three years old. It was started by Diane Cohen. We can source a lot of materials when we actually take down a house because we can save 60 to 70 percent of the materials so because we’re trying to keep materials out of landfills … deconstruction is a really great way to do that. We start by taking down the house in the opposite order of the way it was built. The first thing to come out would be kitchens and baths, light fixtures, those sorts of things. Then we pull up the hardwood flooring or carpet if there is any and then move to sheet rock or plaster and whatever is on the outside of the house whether it be aluminum siding or vinyl siding. And then from the roof down we take it down to the boards. We have tools to pneumatically remove the nails, so shoot the nails out of the board, which is a real time saver. The material is either sold of the job site on Craig’s List or brought back to the ReUse Center for sale.
EK: Reuse of materials has always been part of the fabric of America’s built environment starting from people taking barns and rebuilding barns and then taking the barns and using them for houses. Because our demolition process is slow motion people usually have weeks to look at the progress instead of today the house is there, tomorrow the house is gone. So people can watch the roof come off the walls come down, windows come out, that sort of thing and it makes a compelling story.
[Montage: Last Night by The Strokes]
Amy May: I don’t like the thought of all this beautiful, wonderful, usable material going into a landfill, especially when landfills are becoming more and more of a premium in our society. You know, we generate too much junk, honestly.
JL: Up until the 1970s we were disposing of things in landfills the way the ancient Romans did, just in dug pits. Beyond that period, landfills were required to have liners and then they are monitored. There’s nothing to say though that the liner’s not going to generate a leak at some point so there’s reason for being careful about what we throw into a landfill.
Ivan Yalanzhi: There are so many things that can be perfectly used again because there’s no such places where people can … it’s an easy solution for you to just dump it just because there’s no other outlets for that type of material.
JL: There haven’t been alternatives until things like Finger Lakes ReUse came along so that someone who takes out a nice wooden door to replace it, for example, with a steel insulated door. That person can then take that door and give it to Finger Lakes ReUse where it might be appropriate for another building application.
JL: We went from building almost 2 million homes per year to 500,000. That put many builders out of work and those builders have lately been focusing on remodeling or building homes that are more modest than they were.
EK: A lot of people have the resources to build what they want and not what they need. As long as people believe that they really need it, then we’ll continue to spend a lot of money heating a very large built environment made out of materials that are toxic and not sustainable.
AM: there was the public service announcement of the crying Indian when I was a little kid and how humans could utterly disregard the environment and how important it was to try and take good care of it. I think that became instilled in me quite young.
Paul Uchtman: Essentially I started doing this because this represents several football fields of trees. This is one of our major sources of trash that goes into landfills and it’s all reusable. I’m partially rebuilding my house with this. You can turn this into a thousand different things. Not to ditch on Home Depot or Lowes, but why go to Lowes and Home Depot for lumber when houses are coming down all the time and they just throw it away and burry it.
JL: The trend is right now. I think we’re still at a stage where early adopters are the ones who are interested in sustainability but if these trends continue, I think the market conditions are favorable.
EK: Oh, Amy, I need 12, 10ft 2×8’s
AM: 12, 10ft 2x8s?
EK: Yeah, this pile here
AM: I come to work every day and I’m trying to do something good for the environment for people who are not trying to make a bottom line. It’s a nonprofit, I don’t’ feel like people are getting rich off of our labor. We’re just trying to do the right thing. Usually I can go home with a feeling that “yeah, we saved some stuff, we did some stuff right.”
JL: Sustainability refers to a use of resources that doesn’t jeopardize their use for future generations.
GC: Everybody has to do a little bit
PU: I want to live my life so I can exist where my life does not have to go beyond 50 feet or 50 miles from my house
GC: It’s easy for us, I guess. We look at things differently. I look at a pile of steel and see how that’s going to end up in the mil
EK: There’s a twisted perspective of what we really need verses what we really want
AM: If you look at what really makes people happy, it’s not money and it’s not things.
PU: If I can source my lumber — although all this lumber comes from who knows where — if I can get it from a house 50 miles from my house and build that way I feel I’m more sustainable. I can go pick it up on two gallons of gas and bring it back instead of having it trucked from ancient redwoods forests in California or somewhere in China or somewhere else
AM: We can’t necessarily take advantage of the environment to the point where we destroy ourselves in the process
GC: I look at the same thing when I look at a steel tin can that I just dumped the pears out of and I say okay and we bail it up and I know where that’s going.
AM: There has to be this balance of what we take and what we give and what we destroy and what we create. There has to be this balance and it seems to me that a lot of what we do in society right now has exceeded that balance. It takes things like Finger Lakes Reuse to bring that back into focus and hopefully start doing things differently.