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What Exactly Can Be Recycled When Demolishing a Building?

by Kyle Marshall

When arranging for a building to be demolished, you'll often hear the demolition company discussing what can be salvaged and recycled. If this is the first time you've arranged for a demolition, be prepared for the demolition crew to first scour the building, taking out everything that could possibly be recycled or re-used. In buildings, that turns out to be a lot.

Concrete Chunks and Slabs

Believe it or not, concrete can be recycled. Concrete chunks and slabs can be crushed back into a near-powder and used as an additional aggregate material for new concrete mixtures. It can also be crushed into gravel sizes and used on worksites. Concrete can be salvaged during demolition; most buildings are not taken down through implosion, but rather through careful dismantling. If there are sections of concrete you want to save, such as a mural that you hope to have installed in the new building, the demolition team can carefully remove that section before going after the rest of the materials.

Any Metal That Isn't Corroded

Any metal that isn't corroded can be melted down and poured to make new metal pieces. There is a lot of metal in buildings. From door frames to old iron pipes to copper wire, the demolition crew will strip out the metal and likely sell it to a scrap recycler who will melt the metal down. If there are fixtures that you want to keep, you'll need to tell the demolition crew before they start, preferably when you're still in talks with them about planning the demolition.  

Timber That Isn't Rotting

Timber can be reused if it's intact and of a reasonable size. Timber that can't be reused because it's too small or cracked can be chipped into mulch if it isn't treated with something like chromated copper arsenate. Most of the building's frame will likely be timber if it isn't a steel-frame building.

Parts That Are Whole

Any parts that are whole and not rotting can potentially be re-used or recycled. These include PVC pipes, sink basins, ceiling tiles, and even doors. Again, if any of these items are ones that you think you'd want to use in your new building, you need to arrange with the demolition company for them to salvage those parts and give them to you.

Be sure to have a conversation with the demolition crew so you know what you can re-use and recycle.