Reuse vs. Recycle

By Cheryl Sharp

Reuse and recycle -- two words that seem to confuse people. Here's the difference: Reuse is any activity that lengthens the life of an item. Recycling is the reprocessing of an item into a new raw material.


Some of the reasons why the reuse of building materials is so important:

  1. Reuse keeps building materials out of the waste stream.
  2. Reuse preserves the embodied energy that was used to make the original item.
  3. 3. Reuse creates less air and water pollution than making something new or recycling.
  4. 4. Reuse generates new business and employment opportunities.

Another benefit of reuse that is very important to TRP's many warehouse customers is that good quality salvaged materials can be purchased at affordable prices.

Right now I'm working on the complete gut of a 14,000 square-foot house with many beautiful items, as you can see from the accompanying photos. I can't think of a better way to end the year than with a big project like this. I not only feel good that my clients care enough about the environment to do the right thing, but that they want to give others the chance to own these beautiful cabinets, doors, windows, appliances and other items. They realize that most people can't afford to go to a store and purchase such luxuries new.

Over the years I've found that many people are confused over exactly what reuse is. They think that TRP just grinds up everything to be recycled. Hopefully, by spreading the word through contractors, architects and homeowners that have experienced the deconstruction process, more and more people will catch on to the nature and importance of reuse.

My next hill to conquer will be the so-called "green builders," many of whom don't start out green when they do a remodel or teardown. I would think common sense would kick in and they would all be calling us to arrange for deconstruction. Whether the project is as small as a kitchen remodel or as big as a complete teardown, "going green" should mean the entire project, not just the finished product. Quite a few builders in the Los Angeles area have grasped this concept, but there are so many more who need to jump on the bandwagon.

So please remember, reuse is important in everything you do. Even Nike has reuse shoes now, where the rubber is reused to build running tracks, the fabric is reused for padding on basketball courts and the foam is reused to create a springy surface on tennis courts. So you see, there are many possibilities when we learn to think REUSE!!!!!

It's Christmas -- time to get creative. Go to the reuse warehouse and buy a window and use it as a picture frame. Or combine many windows to build a greenhouse. You can even make tables out of old windows. Or reuse lumber to build a nice doghouse, or a tree house for the kids. Happy New Year to all! And remember, if you want to help the environment call us to start your project right!    

Cheryl Sharp is TRP Regional Manager for San Diego and Orange Counties. Contact her at (858) 583-7081; fax: (760) 304-4345.

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