Saturday, November 10, 2007

Back to Waste Management – Looking for ideas

After spending four hours in a 20 yard roll-off dumpster, another hour or two sorting construction site waste, and a few more hours getting all the recycling bins clearly labeled, I ended up with an interesting assortment of debris. As you might guess the rigid insulation won the volume category, the plastic sheet wrapping came in second, and plastic coated paper third. Scrap wood, while it doesn’t have the volume, wins in the weight category. Lake County recycles cardboard, numbers 1 through 7 plastics, metal, aluminum, household paper, and glass. As you can see my current top rated waste by volume doesn’t fit into any of these categories. OK time to get creative!

Lessens learned thus far:

Set up the waste management program immediately, or as soon as possible after starting construction. Sorting as you go is the best, but good luck if you are working with a wide variety of styles when it comes to waste management, especially in the north woods. Clear delineation of where you are going to pile waste by types allows you to think creatively about what to do with the waste. We are currently hoping to finish the waste management recycling enclosure this week, so that we can recycle waste products on a weekly basis in a weather-protected location that will make it conducive to participate in waste reduction efforts. Regardless of your situation, figure out your waste management, as if it is just as important as drilling your well.

Get the suppliers/manufactures of materials involved; setting up some way to determine how to keep the challenging packaging material from arriving at the construction site in the first place would go a long way in helping with the waste management.

Ferrous (iron-containing) metal products have traditionally used 30% to 35% scrap metal for their end product. The ferrous metal scrap industry sells to the steel mills that in turn sell to the metal manufacturing companies. This is great news, but what are they doing to go beyond the norm?

Ideas we have come up with thus far:

Mike had a good idea yesterday; he suggested we create a mini-questionnaire to go to all the suppliers of material for the project regarding how they are going to deliver the product and what containment style they use. When packaging choices are available, making decisions on how the supplier works with you to limit the more challenging packaging materials by reuse or other sort of environmentally friendly recycling is a smart idea and reveals how green the supplier or manufacture is.

We are planning to grind and chip the wood, EPS rigid insulation, and gypsum to be used in the project as low grade building insulation, mulch or landscape products.

The recycling enclosure will go a long way to make recycling part of the construction routine. By the way, leaving the waste product/packaging at the store where you purchase the item in lieu of taking it with you is also a means to bring home the point that we don’t want it or need it in our lives to the degree it exists today. I did this the other day at the wireless store, I asked the sales person to open the impossible-to-open plastic packaging and keep it while I took the product, instructions and sales receipt. Challenging ourselves to reduce our waste is turning into an intriguing game that gets played out nearly every hour of the day.

OK, here’s where we need ideas, what do we do with the miles of plastic wrapping material that is used to hold together bulk materials? If we compact it to a reasonable size it might be use for something? Can it be recycled? Can it be shredded?

Mike has found this web site, it seems like a great source for waste management information.


Awareness, this entire project has heightened our awareness of environmental issues to a magnitude that I did not anticipate. Be aware of the energy consumption that we misuse on a daily basis, the embodied energy of many materials, waste production and reduction, byproducts of the fuels we choose, green marketing scams, and even the simple idea that making something aesthetically pleasing is a sustainable concept. Short of offing ourselves, there is a tremendous amount of change we can make to help nature keep working in our favor.

Interesting reads on this topic: "Cradle to Cradle by William Mc Donough & Michael Braungart


Greg said...

Hi Nancy,

Cool site!

The following web site has a list of manufacturers in Minnesota, who may accept your Low Density Polyethylene (LDPE) shrink wrap & stretch wrap.

Greg Johnson
MEP Associates

jillybean said...

Hi Nancy,
My grandma Hilda used to make rugs from plastic bags so I am sure you could make them from the plastic packaging. It would be so eco to have a dining room rug made from your recycled plastic. You could even do matching place mats!! Good luck with your mission...JD

jillybean said...

Hi Nancy,
We know of a way that you can make braided rugs out of plastic, it would make a great rug under your dining room table, you could also make matching place mats. Grandma Hilda had quite a selection. I hope you enjoy the suggestions. ...Jill, PS bath mats might be another unique idea.

Alastair Dodwell said...

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