Finders keepers: the whys and hows of reuse

cleaning bricks

Walking into the Hobart tip shop shows you just how much stuff can be salvaged from what people throw out. Stacked up outside are piles of metal roofing, timber and windows. A quick search around the tip shop reveals light fittings, carpets, tiles and more.

Finding and using second-hand materials can get addictive. Perhaps it’s the thrill of the chase for a beautiful or functional material or maybe it’s the heroic feel of wresting something from landfill. Whatever the appeal, using second-hand building materials is rewarding, and when you reuse, you’re not only saving materials from ending up as rubbish, you’re also saving energy and emissions. And it’s fun, unexpected and creative—what’s not to love?

In Australia, building materials make up about half of all the materials that we consume. The embodied energy and wastage associated with this consumption is enormous. Your Home Technical Manual explains embodied energy as the measure of the energy used in the mining, manufacture and transport of a material. The energy embodied in the current buildings in Australia is equal to ten years of the nation’s energy consumption.* Reusing building materials rather than using new materials will reduce the embodied energy of a house by up to 95%.

Reuse is the process of lengthening the life of an item by using it again. Reuse centres are packed to the rafters with timber, windows, doors, tiling, roofing and more.

Recycling reprocesses a material to become a raw material once again, a process that requires fossil fuels, water and other resources. Building materials that include a proportion of recycled materials include plasterboard, carpet, bricks and concrete.

To the landfill rescue
With the consumption of building materials comes the production of waste, and the Australian government website Living Greener notes that building materials make up 40% of our landfill mass.

The Hobart tip shop salvages over two tonnes of reusable goods and recyclable material directly from the tip-face each day. On top of this, they started a demolition company four years ago that diverts building materials to be reused or recycled before they even get to the tip-face.

Read the full article in ReNew 122.

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