Thursday, July 14, 2011

How to Recycle Just About Anything

We've started accumulating quite a bit of debris around here from our various cleaning and deconstruction projects.  Currently it is cluttering up our back yard, driveway and garage just waiting to be disposed of.

We'd been planning on renting a dumpster to take care of the mess until today when we started doing some research into how to dispose of the giant sliding door that was overtaking our driveway.

We were doing research on facilities that reuse or recycle building materials and that were willing to pick up large items and were beginning to realize that no one was going to want an old aluminum screen door for their rebuilding project (most places that accept things like doors or windows only accept vinyl).  One facility suggested that we contact a local rebuilding center that might at least take the door and recycle it for us.  Just minutes later, a gentleman rang our doorbell and asked if we would like him to recycle the metal from the door for us.  He is probably going to make a buck or two off us, but we were just happy to get rid of the thing without throwing it in a dumpster!  He offered to take the glass, as well as the glass we had stacked in our yard from the porch deconstruction for a fee, but we declined.  There must be a way that we can do these sort of things ourselves without a timely stranger driving by and offering to dismantle our large debris and hauling it away for us.  With a little more research we began to discovered that we can recycle well... pretty much everything.  So much for that dumpster.  So we wanted to share some tips and steps to recycling everything based on our research and experience:

1.  Deconstruction vs. Demolition:  Our last post was incorrectly named.  What we did to our porch over the weekend was not demolition, it was deconstruction (for the most part).  Deconstruction is when a structure is carefully dismantled in order to maximize the materials that can be reused or recycled.

2.  Get creative about reuse:  Construction materials can be costly if you have to go out and buy them for a future project.  Think about what you can reuse or re-purpose and ask friends and family for suggestions.  For example, Matt's cousin suggested that we or somebody else might want to use wood and glass to construct a cold box for winter growing in our garden as in this post from the door garden.

There are also all sorts of resources online for updating and re-purposing old furniture.  Check out blogs such as for loads of inspiration.

3.  If you can't use it, see if someone else can:  Ask friends, family and neighbors if they have a need for building materials, furniture and other goods you're looking to discard.  One of our neighbors laid claim to our plexiglass, scrap wood and cinder blocks just days into our deconstruction projects.  You can also post items for sale or for free on websites like and

4.  Look into building material donation sites:  Habitat for humanity takes donations of new and gently used building materials, appliances, tools, office supplies and more for their building projects to be sold in their not-for-profit store.  Donations need to be in saleable condition and free of nails, dirt, mold, rot or lead paint.  Go to to find a Habitat ReStore near you and check for individual requirements for donated goods and materials.

5. Check your local recycling rules:  You may be able to recycle things right on your sidewalk that you never would have expected.  For example, Portland recycling will take any scrap metal as long as it fits in your recycling bin.

6. When all else fails, do some research:  We were amazed at this A to Z list of recyclable goods compiled by a local recycler (click to view larger):

It is really eye-opening to see all the things that can be recycled if you can find the right facility.  It is possible that you will have to pay a small fee to bring your goods to a recycling facility, but in many cases they will take small loads brought in by individuals (as opposed to corporate recycling) for free and some will even pay for certain materials.  You may have to do a little research, but there could be many facilities in your area who will take some or all of your recyclable materials.  When doing your research be sure to watch for referrals; many recycling centers really care about what they are doing and if there are items that they can not take they may refer you to someone who can.  If you are doing a remodel or demolition project you can also research deconstruction and recycling services in your area.  These types of services will actually come to your site and complete your project in a way that maximizes what can be recycled and reused and take it all away with them.

For you Portlanders reading, here are a few of the services we came across in the metro area:

Happy Recycling!

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