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Case Studies: Climate Smart Waste Reduction and Materials Reuse

New York State Communities Prevent Waste and Reuse Materials
Reusing Construction and Demolition Debris in New York State
Nationwide Success Stories in Community Waste Prevention and Reuse
Waste Prevention and Reuse Education and Outreach in New York

Avoiding the production of a product or package or reusing it in its original form and thereby preventing waste altogether, offers the most significant greenhouse gas reductions of any solid waste management strategy. Preventing waste eliminates the need to extract resources, manufacture products and materials, transport them to market, and dispose of them as waste, avoiding the greenhouse gas emissions at each step of that process.

The links below access waste reduction/reuse success stories in New York and beyond. Although many of the programs do not yet assess their greenhouse gas savings, the ones that do can provide an idea of how much we impact our climate by our materials use and waste management choices.

Note all the following links leave the DEC website

Communities Prevent Waste and Reuse Materials

A Case of Greenhouse Gas Emissions Savings

New York City: By substituting electronic phone directories for print, Department of Environmental Protection eliminates the use of approximately 1.3 tons of paper each year. In addition to saving money on purchases and disposal, the department estimates it has reduced greenhouse gas impacts by 2.8 metric tons of carbon equivalent (MTCE) annually. (By contrast, recycling that same amount of material would reduce only 1 MTCE, and landfilling those materials would result in an increase of 0.7 MTCE annually.)

Solid Waste Management Planning Helps Reuse

Finger Lakes Reuse: Climate Smart Community Tompkins County committed to create a reuse center in 1995, as part of its 20-Year Solid Waste Management Plan. The resulting organization, Finger Lakes ReUse, operates a community-oriented warehouse, shopping, and educational center in Ithaca. Finger Lakes ReUse, Inc. is an independent, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization formed with support from Tompkins County Solid Waste, Cornell Cooperative Extension of Tompkins County, Ithaca

Storefront in Mall with sign above door ReUSe
Finger Lakes ReUse Center sells salvaged building materials
at its ReUse center in Ithaca
(Photo courtesy of Fingers Lakes ReUse)

College, Cornell University, the City of Ithaca, and other local organizations. Currently, the group is planning a new Fixers' Collective, a group of volunteers who will repair household items such as home electronics, furniture and small appliances for resale and reuse.

Statewide Habitat for Humanity Re-Stores: Nonprofit Habitat ReStores are retail outlets where quality, used and surplus building materials are sold at a fraction of normal prices. Proceeds from ReStores help local affiliates fund the construction of Habitat houses within the community. Many affiliates across the United States and Canada operate successful ReStores-some of which raise enough funds to build an additional 10 or more houses per year. There are 11 Re-Stores in New York State.

Community Garage Sales and Reuse Websites

Town of Red Hook (Dutchess County) Household Goods Exchange: Red Hook makes it easy for its residents to re-use: neighbors can "shop" at the Household Goods Exchange on Saturdays after they drop off their recyclables. Everything is free and available on a first come first serve basis. Residents say that the personal connection makes this concept successful

Lady in red sweater holding a hobby horse toy
A Town of Red Hook resident makes a perfect
find to delight her grandchild.
(Photo courtesy of the Town of Red Hook)

- they like knowing someone close by is benefiting from something that they no longer need. For information on how Red Hook developed its successful materials reuse program, call Ruth Oja at (845) 758-4167.

Westchester County Treasure Hunt: Westchester County maintains a website with a searchable data base to facilitate reuse of unwanted items. The site offers county residents a free listing for "treasures" available for reuse or for items wanted. Items are listed for one week and are subject to approval by the county Department of Environmental Facilities. Treasure Hunt may not be used to find a home for a pet. The website also links to sites that facilitate donation of goods to local charities and online exchange groups (such as WestchesterFreeshare and WestchesterNYFreecycle).

Reusable Bag Promotion

Village of Tarrytown (Westchester County) Reusable Bag Campaign: as part of their 2009 Waste Reduction/Reuse Initiative, members of Tarrytown's Environmental Advisory Council visited merchants to distribute reusable bags and reuse decals.

Reusing Construction and Demolition Debris in New York State

Deconstruction keeps a high percentage of construction and demolition debris out of landfills - some deconstructors report salvaging as much as 70 percent to 90 percent. Additional services are required to prepare and market salvaged materials for reuse. Below are descriptions of four full-service deconstruction programs operating in New York State.

Buffalo Reuse (City of Buffalo): Buffalo Reuse is a not-for-profit organization, established in 2006 in response to the City of Buffalo's plans to develop deconstruction as a competitive alternative to the demolition of abandoned housing stock. Buffalo ReUse is a licensed, insured, bonded and fully equipped demolition contractor in the City of Buffalo, specializing in green demolition.

Finger Lakes Reuse (Tompkins County and surrounding finger Lakes Region): This deconstruction program identifies suitable buildings for deconstruction, safely dismantles them by hand to harvest maximum materials, and then sells the materials at discounted prices through its ReUse Center. Materials reclaimed from deconstruction are processed and packaged on the project site - even landscaping may be salvaged. At the ReUse warehouse, the materials are inventoried, priced and moved to the sales floor. Hand deconstruction requires a significant labor force, both ReUse staff and a trained volunteer corps. Before going on-site, workers receive training in safety, proper tool use and careful removal of building materials. Currently underway is a collaboration with two Ithaca companies on a contract to improve home energy performance with "deep energy retrofits," shown to reduce heating energy use by 60 to 75 percent. In preparation for adding new insulation to seal in home heat, the FLR Deconstruction Crew is removing old siding and insulation and working to maximize the preservation of reusable materials.

City of Syracuse (Onondaga County): Syracuse is fortunate in having two deconstruction programs diverting demolition debris from its waste disposal facilities. Habitat for Humanity ReStore and deconstruction program handles demolition debris and surplus materials. The program also provides training and green jobs within the community.

Partially constructed long room with new wood flooring
Instead of moldering in a landfill, debris from a
deconstructed building takes on a beautiful second life
as an engineered floor in new construction.
(Photo courtesy of Home HeadQuarters, Inc.)

The organization reports that ReStore has prevented more than 600,000 pounds of waste from entering landfills since its opening in 2004. Home HeadQuarters, Inc., has completed two deconstructions. Most of the materials from one of the structures have been recycled, including 100 percent of the metal and concrete (over 160,000 lbs) and 33 percent of the wood.

Local Deconstruction Policies

Local governments use a variety of policies to promote deconstruction of unwanted buildings and reuse of materials, including regulatory requirements and incentives for voluntary compliance.

  • Los Angeles and San Francisco: All public building projects must submit plans and reports on reuse and recycling practices during construction and demolition.
  • Cotati, California: Since 1993, the City has required that reusable and recyclable materials from all demolished structures be made available for salvage prior to demolition.
  • Orange County, North Carolina has drafted an ordinance calling for mandatory separation of wood, metal and drywall discards from construction sites. The new regulations would be enforced by job site inspectors and include penalties for sending construction and demolition waste to the county landfill. The county is also considering a ban on landfilling wood pallets.

Nationwide Success Stories in Community Waste Prevention and Reuse

Waste Prevention and Reuse Education and Outreach

Public outreach, education and training are critical components of a successful waste reduction and reuse program. Many of New York's local governments are taking action to educate citizens on municipal initiatives and on opportunities to participate in waste reduction and reuse programs.

Picture of Tompkins County Recylcing and Solid Waste website page
Recycling and Solid Waste home page, Tompkins County

Many links on this Case Studies page access local waste reduction and reuse websites, which are excellent examples for communities initiating their own sites. Below are links to references about initiating and maintaining effective waste prevention and reuse outreach programs, and about how to carry out specific types of outreach.

  • California's Integrated Waste Management Board Waste Prevention World : Public Education Campaigns That Promote Waste Reduction
    Minnesota Pollution Control Agency Educational Toolbox:
  • Tompkins County is one of several New York municipalities that make it easy for residents to recycle with a Recycling and Solid Waste Website that shows how and where to reduce, reuse or properly dispose of an item.