In average markets across the country, though, remodelers run into a threefold problem: One, remodelers may not know how to remove materials without damaging them. Two, doing so might take more time than they have. And even if they do manage to pull off one and two, they still may not have anywhere to take the recycled materials.

Bennick owns Re-Use Consulting, in Bellingham, Wash., and works with remodelers to address these very challenges.

On one recent project, a condominium remodeler needed Bennick's help with 1,400 vinyl windows. “Before I came along they were breaking most of the windows as they removed them, and trying to give the intact ones away to neighbors. But these guys had 1,400 windows!” Bennick first showed them how to quickly remove the windows without damaging them, then found buyers. “I'm on my way to making the remodeling contractor $23,000, instead of him accumulating $2,000 or $3,000 in dump fees.”

This year, more opportunities are springing up for contractors to learn about deconstruction and recycling. The BMRA will offer two full-day training workshops at its conference this May. One workshop gives BMRA accreditation in building deconstruction; the other shows contractors how to set up a comprehensive recycling program for construction and demolition debris.

On a local level, the Atlanta chapter of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry will soon begin a pilot program to train contractors on limiting the amount of waste they put in landfills. The program was developed by Seville.


As for finding a place to take recyclable material, such as Landis' steel girders, the Web is perhaps the best guide for now.

The U.S. General Services Administration publishes a list of companies that recycle construction and demolition waste. Remodelers may search the site ( by region and material, as well as by whether the company picks up waste or simply accepts it. On Habitat for Humanity's Web site ( is a list of their ReStores, 450 of them in the U.S. And BMRA's Web site ( lists 1,300 businesses across the country where you can buy or donate reusable building materials.

As more recyclable material enters the stream, and the market for them grows, it's likely that more businesses will spring up to make reusing and recycling easier. In the meantime, a lot rests on remodelers' willingness to do the right thing, even though it's not always easy. “For now, it's just a matter of feeling good,” Landis says. “But there really needs to be a better market mechanism for getting salvaged material into the recycling chain,” he says, “because right now it's a cumbersome chain.”

Source: Environmental Protection Agency, 2003

Alice Bumgarner is a freelance writer based in Durham, N.C. When she's not covering the remodeling industry, she writes about food, travel, and parenting. Her work has been published in Salon, Sky, and Town & Country magazines, among others.