Former Utne Reader senior editor Keith Goetzman on environmental issues from climate change to composting.
Go ahead and recycle your cans and bottles, your papers and boxes: It’s all good. But personal recycling efforts are relatively small in volume compared to the mountains of material thrown away every day at construction sites. Liz Pacheco reports in Philadelphia’s Grid magazine on Revolution Recovery, a green business that’s pioneering ways to keep this daily deluge of construction and demolition waste out of landfills.
“They looked in a Dumpster and said ‘How can I find a use for this?’ not ‘How can I get rid of this,’” one business colleague tells Grid, referring to company co-owners Avi Golen and Jon Wybar.
Golen and Wybar treat their enterprise as a mining operation of sorts, extracting materials and finding markets for them. Wood, their most popular material, is either reused by nonprofits and arts groups or turned into mulch or fuel chips. Rubble such as brick, concrete, and asphalt is crushed and repurposed in paving and drainage applications. And they’re always hunting for new ways to extract treasure from what some people might call waste:
“You classify waste as commingled material, mixed material,” says Golen. “So, anytime you mix wood, drywall and cardboard into a Dumpster, people look at it and see waste, where we see commodities just mixed together.”
Their cavernous sorting facility is an impressive operation where huge overhead conveyors carry bins past crews of workers that extract materials, then send them tumbling down into garage-sized enclosures. It’s a resource-intensive operation compared to a traditional waste facility, but, writes Pacheco, “Recycling construction waste is becoming mainstream and more waste companies are adapting their ways.”