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Environmental Benefits

| Written by Neil Seldman | No Comments | Updated on Jan 1, 2000 The content that follows was originally published on the Institute for Local Self-Reliance website at

The construction and demolition (C&D) industry generates and disposes almost 65 million tons of waste annually, much of which is reusable or recyclable. Our projects have shown deconstruction can recover up to 24 million tons of C&D waste each year for reuse, and another 6 million tons for recycling. By reducing waste generation, deconstruction also reduces climate gas emissions, and abates the need for new landfills and incinerators. Perhaps most importantly, it helps to steer the C&D industry away from traditional consumption and disposal patterns and towards sustainability and reuse. Reducing the industry’s consumption of virgin materials helps preserve natural resources and protect the environment from the air, ground, and water pollution related to extraction, processing, and disposal of raw materials.

Government and military officials, low-income families, and environmentalists are increasingly advocating deconstruction as a way to generate substantial benefits for their communities. Deconstruction helps reduce waste generation, but communities and low-income families can reap the benefits of deconstruction. Deconstruction helps reduce waste generation, and therefore reduces the amount of waste disposed in landfills and incinerators. This reduces climate gas emissions, but also has a direct impact at the local level. As you know, disposal facilities traditionally are sited in low-income and minority areas, subjecting citizens to a host of environmental plagues — from airborne toxins produced through incineration, to groundwater pollution from improper disposal of contaminated materials. By reducing waste generation and disposal, pollution in low-income and minority areas also is reduced.

In addition, deconstruction provides a supply of durable, low-cost materials for reuse in construction and renovation projects. Reducing the need for virgin materials abates the pollution related to extraction and processing -such as cyanide leaching from hardrock mining sites, much of which is done on Native American lands and has been linked to substantial groundwater pollution. It also reduces the need to manufacture new materials, such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC, or vinyl) a common construction material, the manufacture of which releases airborne dioxins into (predominately minority) neighborhoods surrounding the PVC plants.

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About Neil Seldman

Neil Seldman, Ph.D, directs the Waste to Wealth initiative. He specializes in helping cities and businesses recover increasing amounts of materials from the waste stream and add value to the local economy through new processing and manufacturing facilities. He is a co-founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance and is a member of ILSR’s Board of Directors.

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