ILSR’s Waste to Wealth E-Bits – Vol. 1, No. 2


The Institute for Local Self-Reliance (ILSR) is a 26-year-old nonprofit organization that promotes economic development that minimizes environmental damage while maximizing benefits to the local community. Our Waste to Wealth Program offers research, policy development, technical assistance, and public education and outreach on waste reduction and recycling-related economic development.

E-Bits highlights ILSR’s Waste to Wealth Program work, from creating jobs and recycling-oriented enterprises, to recycling policies that close the loop locally, to model waste reduction initiatives. Welcome to our second edition of E-Bits!


According to the U.S. EPA, in 1996, the U.S. disposed an estimated 95 million tons of building-related construction and demolition (C&D) materials. This amount is in addition to the 152 million tons of municipal solid waste landfilled and burned the same year.

Local governments that want to encourage more building-related C&D material recovery, building owners and developers interested in green building design, and building contractors seeking a competitive edge now have a new resource available.

A new fact sheet packet, Building Savings: Strategies for Waste Reduction of Construction and Demolition Debris from Buildings, profiles seven building projects — from new construction to renovation and deconstruction — that are recovering 42 to 82% of materials otherwise destined for disposal. ILSR researched and wrote the fact sheet packet, which the U.S. EPA recently published.

Building Savings (EPA-530-F-00-001) is available from the EPA RCRA hotline at 1-800-424-9346 (703-412-9810 for international callers and those within the Washington DC metropolitan area). It is also available for download as a PDF file on ILSR’s Web site.



ILSR is pleased to announce its new program, The Healthy Building Network, spearheaded by Bill Walsh, former Campaign Coordinator at Greenpeace USA.

The Network is a coalition of environmental health activists, green building professionals, and others interested in advocating for the use of safer, ecologically superior building materials as a means to a healthier indoor environment and global environmental preservation.

Initial objectives include phasing out four building materials that threaten environmental and human health: polyvinyl chloride (PVC) plastics, plywood and chipboards, formaldehyde, and wood treated with copper chromium arsenate.

Current Network activities include:

  • Working with the U.S. Green Building Council to establish a policy that would make clear that PVC plastic/vinyl is not an ecologically sound, green building material.
  • Requesting that the world’s largest manufacturer of floor tiles, Armstrong World Industries, commit to a phase-out of vinyl flooring and the adoption of stronger forest protection standards for its wood products.
  • Working with the plaintiffs in a Proposition 65 lawsuit against the manufacturers of portable classrooms in the hope that the defendants will commit to using formaldehyde-free and tree-free building products to the maximum extent possible in the future. (Proposition 65 is a California law requiring the listing, labeling, and control of harmful chemicals.)

For more information or to get involved in the Healthy Building Network visit its Web site at: or contact Bill Walsh, National Coordinator at



Visit our new Web site on Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR):

Extended producer responsibility (EPR), based on the “polluter pays” principle, entails making manufacturers responsible for the entire lifecycle of the products and packaging they produce. This new site covers EPR tools and model policies in place around the globe, and includes resources and links to related sites. We will continue to update it, so check it out again soon.



Between 1990 and 1993, ILSR published its Facts to Act On series, 38 articles covering a wide range of topics on recycling, waste management, and grassroots organizing. We have renewed this series. Recent and upcoming issues focus on extended producer responsibility and product stewardship.

Two new issues of Facts to Act On are now available for viewing online and for download as PDF files at:

Product Stewardship in British Columbia: This Facts to Act On (#39) examines product stewardship programs and policies in place in British Columbia, Canada, for beverage containers and household hazardous waste (used motor oil, paints, solvents, flammable liquids, domestic pesticides, gasoline, and pharmaceuticals).

Local Initiatives Leverage Extended Producer Responsibility: This Facts to Act On (#40) describes examples of local initiatives to spur extended producer responsibility and lists where the reader can view actual resolutions and ordinances, and find more information. Techniques covered range from networking with industry in a voluntary approach to banning products that harm the environment and public health.

For a list of back issues (1990-1993, #1 – #38), go to:

Upcoming issues will focus on extended producer responsibility in Latin America and Asia and on policies and systems that encourage refillable beverage containers. If you want to be notified of the availability of future Facts to Act On, send an e-mail to Brenda Platt at



Many developing nations are facing waste crises. As these countries enter the global economy, their cities face mountains of trash from food discards and end-of-life consumer goods and packaging. Unfortunately, developing countries often do not have the budgets, facilities, other infrastructure, or expertise to ensure these discarded materials are handled in an environmentally- and economically-sound manner. Consequently, proposals of multinational corporations to build incinerators that make waste “disappear” can seem attractive to governments.

ILSR is working with Greenpeace Southeast Asia to assist the governments of Metropolitan Manila, the Philippines, and Bangkok, Thailand, develop alternatives to incineration proposals currently on the table in each city. ILSR is producing a report for each city outlining a waste management scenario based on waste reduction, recycling, composting, and recycling-based economic development. In contrast to the incineration proposals, ILSR’s plans will create thousands of jobs, reduce dependence on foreign fuel and raw materials, and contribute to the cities reaching long-term sustainability.



ILSR continues to promote building deconstruction as a proven and viable community development technique.

Bridgeport, Connecticut: We have convinced the Housing Authority in Bridgeport to deconstruct rather than demolish six of its public housing units and are negotiating for more. Meanwhile, the Action for Bridgeport Community Development (ABCD) is planning a deconstruction business. It recently received $350,000 from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Job Opportunities for Low-Income Individuals Grant Program — money it hopes to allocate to its deconstruction effort. While developing the deconstruction program, ILSR and ABCD created a “community union hall” to match up residents eager for training and employment with union representatives seeking construction workers. To date, we have placed 20 workers through the program, and another 25 are on a waiting list.

Washington, DC: The Ivy City Deconstruction Dream Team, formed by former deconstruction trainees from the city’s Ward 5, has recently been authorized by the DC Housing Authority to recover wood flooring from 100 public housing units slated for demolition. ILSR assisted the Dream Team with marketing the flooring, which has been pre-sold for $1/board foot.

Buffalo, New York: We have just completed an audit surveying the feasibility of deconstructing 330 public housing units.

Pacific Northwest: We are assisting the Metropolitan Development Council in Tacoma, Washington, develop a deconstruction enterprise and training program along with a Portland, Oregon-based deconstruction/reuse business.

Other projects are pending in Massachusetts; Baltimore, MD; Newark, NJ; New Orleans, LA; and Portland, OR.



ILSR’s report, Building a Deconstruction Company: A Training Manual for Deconstruction Facilitators and Entrepreneurs, will be available in December. This report — funded by grants from the Materials for Future Foundation and the Office of Community Services, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services — takes readers through the process of setting up and operating a deconstruction business. The training manual addresses company structure, market analysis, financing options, administrative issues, facilities and equipment needs, safety and training, step by step deconstruction, and material marketing and resale. For more information, check out ILSR’s Deconstruction Web site later this month or send an e-mail to