Blog Post

Construction projects can create a significant amount of waste, filling up dumpsters and costing money in tipping fees. However, there are a number of outlets that exist for usable building materials extracted from a site before demolition begins. Common casualties of construction, such as usable furniture, fixtures like cabinets and toilets, lumber and windows and doors, can be reclaimed for reuse. Furthermore, many of the non-reusable materials are recyclable.

With advanced planning, project managers, general contractors, and building owners can employ a number of strategies to reduce waste throughout the construction process. Developing a waste management plan and building specs, similar to these samples from The ReUse Network, is a first step in planning for reuse and recycling opportunities throughout the project. Include this plan in the bid specifications when issuing a bid for a contractor.

One project consideration will be how the renovation of existing facilities takes place. Whereas demolition entails tearing down and managing all building materials mixed together, deconstruction is the alternative practice of pulling a building apart, piece by piece. Through the deconstruction process materials are separated for reuse and recycling where possible, prior to disposal.

For some projects, it might make sense to conduct a soft strip instead of a full deconstruction. A soft strip means only removing the high-value, easy to extract materials. A pre-demolition cleanout may also be requested by the building owner, to remove items like furniture that can be donated before the project begins.

Throughout the project, explore opportunities for materials reuse. There are many local nonprofit reuse stores in Massachusetts where usable materials can be donated, although it’s important to check in advance to learn what items they can accept. Our Business and Institutional Furniture and Office Equipment Reuse Guidance provides information about developing a reuse plan, including tips for creating a timeline and budget, taking inventory, and identifying potential reuse outlets. In addition to salvaging materials for donation, secondhand items may be incorporated into new construction. Alternatively, usable materials from projects may be sold or saved for future building projects.

In many cases deconstructing a building and donating usable items to non-profit reuse centers yields a higher labor cost, but decreases disposal costs. Projects may also be able to receive tax deductions for donated materials!

RecyclingWorks in Massachusetts (RecyclingWorks) offers free resources to support businesses and institutions in establishing recycling and reuse programs for Construction & Demolition, including Construction & Demolition Materials Guidance and case studies of successful projects, such as The Columns. To speak to a RecyclingWorks recycling expert, call our hotline: (888) 254-5525 or email us at