Can You Recycle a House?

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Home remodeling and demolition produces a truly significant amount of waste. Breaking down existing structures in order to build new ones requires a place to put the debris. Canada construction industry generates around 9 million tons of construction and demolition waste annually. The EPA estimates that the U.S. construction industry creates about 550 million tons of waste per year, and around 90 percent of that is demolition debris. Too often, this waste heads straight for the landfill. Although a good amount of this debris could be reused or recycled, much of it ends up in a landfill. Fortunately, advocates are working to make it easier for property owners and contractors who work in building demolition or renovation to recycle debris or reuse it in new ways. This effort cuts down on the sourcing needs for many construction materials, such as stone, sand, cement, paper, metal, and more. Keeping useful materials out of the landfill can help to control costs and even provide a way for people to save or earn money in the process. Homeowners should remember that recycling facilities are heavily region-specific, however. Options readily available in one province or state may not be easy to find in another one. People can aim to do the best they can with programs in their area. Some time spent researching local resources will help identify what is possible and realistic. Extra effort to keep the materials in better condition ensures a higher likelihood it will be acceptable for any purpose. Remember that – even if a processing center is not available – many materials or objects can be sold or repurposed in some way. This guide identifies many ways parts of the home structure could be reused or recycled.

Common potentially-recyclable materials to look out for

Much of the home is up for some kind of recyclable or reusable material. Homeowners may have to break down the components of the house and property into several pieces and separate them out for recycling by different organizations. In some cases, materials can be easily removed and reused in their whole form, without much need to process them. Bricks, wood, and glass are good examples of this. In other cases, the product requires at least some preparation so that it can be converted into something new. Concrete, metal, plastic, and gypsum typically all require a few extra steps, most of which cannot be done by homeowners. As homeowners start to think about their demolition or remodeling plans, they can go down this list and decide where to place their focus. It can also guide efforts to research local facilities and organizations that can handle the recycling burden, or direct the existing materials to people who can reuse them.


Concrete is a building material that is heavily resource-intensive. Its extreme weight requires a lot of energy to produce, demolish and dispose of it. Since it is such a common component of modern construction, experts are continually looking for ways to streamline concrete recycling. Making recycling plants locally available and even movable to the jobsite can cut down on the energy consumption for transportation. It also increases the likelihood that property owners will choose recycling instead of sending concrete to the landfill. With attention to the resources needed to process concrete, homeowners can minimize waste in multiple areas. Concrete is made of gravel, sand, cement, and water. Builders often install steel rods inside the concrete, called rebar, to provide additional support. Once the demolition team removes the concrete from the property, it must be taken to a recycling plant for processing. Typically, anything stuck to the concrete needs to be removed before crushing it. Recent innovations allow recycling companies to extract rebar using magnets, which used to take a lot of manpower and time to complete. The concrete gets broken into smaller or larger pieces, depending on the purpose. Smaller pieces can be added to dirt and used as a road base under a layer of concrete or asphalt. This requires the concrete to be pummeled to a much smaller size. Builders are also realizing the benefit of using coarse concrete chunks in the production of concrete, not just as a layer underneath. By reusing concrete in this way, manufacturers can rely on less natural stone gravel. Evidence suggests that concrete produced this way has a strength and durability similar to concrete built with natural gravel pieces.


Combine a finite natural resource with a strong material ideal for uses in housing, and the high degree of metal recycling makes a lot of sense. Unlike concrete, manufacturers cannot simply make more iron, aluminum, or copper. When shaped and treated properly, they can provide a building material that is lightweight, durable, and energy-efficient. Metal featured in many countries’ first attempts at recycling on a large scale. As a result, it is recycled in huge quantities and widely available worldwide. The U.S. recycled about 109 million metric tons (120 tons) of scrap metal in 2018, and Canada processes around 17 million metric tons per year. Scrap metal is one of the few industries in which consumers and construction professionals can earn money for their contribution instead of having to pay a fee. Since it is a limited resource but also so easy to repurpose, scrap metal is usually in demand by local recycling plants. Homeowners recycling a small quantity of cans or other household products made of metal might not make much, but a ton or two of scrap from a home structure could generate a tidy sum. Metals that do not contain iron, such as aluminum or stainless steel, may be worth more. Recycling organizations are often willing to haul away metal debris directly from the site, but people should call to schedule it in advance. The widespread recycling of metal makes the process fairly simple for homeowners. As a general rule, if the waste contains half or more of metal, it is worth taking to a recycling company for processing. People may not be obligated to remove paint or separate non-metal products from the scrap before recycling, but should double-check with their local processing facilities.