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Recycling the Whole House

Kristina Shevory, New York Times
…The place was crying out for a wrecking ball, but Ms. Keller, a 63-year-old retired teacher of English as a second language, who has an environmentally aware conscience, didn’t want to scrap the building materials only to buy new ones. Instead of having her 1,300-square-foot house bulldozed, she hired Jon Alexander, a contractor who shared her environmentalism and was willing to dismantle the home shingle by beam, and build a replacement with the same two-by-fours.

…Due to rising landfill costs, tighter recycling guidelines and the growing trend toward ecologically sound building methods, this sort of home “deconstruction,” as the practice is called, is starting to catch on. About 1,000 homes a year are disassembled this way, according to the Building Materials Reuse Association, a nonprofit educational group in State College, Pa., which reports growing interest in the practice.

Fueling that interest are efforts by cities and states across the country to stanch the flow of demolition rubble into landfills. Some 245,000 houses in the United States are razed each year, generating nearly 20 million tons of debris, according to a 1996 report from the Environmental Protection Agency, the most recent data available.

Confronted with mounting waste, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection has banned brick, concrete, metal, wood and asphalt from landfills.

In San Jose, Calif. – where construction and demolition refuse accounts for 30 percent of landfill waste, according to official estimates – homeowners who apply for a city permit to demolish, remodel or build an addition have to pay a deposit based on the size and type of project. To get the money back, they must show that 90 percent of the material generated has been reused or sent to a certified recycling or reuse center. Cities including Seattle, and Chicago have also introduced measures to reduce construction and demolition waste.
(18 October 2007)

Plasma TVs may be banned in Australia

Australian Broadcasting Commission
Most plasma television sets are in danger of being banned from sale in Australia if a proposed energy-efficiency rating system is adopted.

A report commissioned by the Federal Government says there is a growing demand for plasma and LCD televisions, which use more power than traditional TV sets.

It says energy rating labels are needed to tell consumers about the performance of the TVs.

But under a proposed six-star rating system, most current plasma TVs do not meet the requirements and could be removed from sale.

The report also suggests “minimum energy performance standards” be introduced which would eliminate the worst performing TVs.

It would mean all current plasma TVs and many LCDs could be removed from sale by 2011.
(10 October 2007)
Contributor David Landgren writes:
good to see at least one country beginning to get serious about these energy guzzlers.

Bottled water leaves some cities with a bad taste

Judy Keen, USA TODAY
CHICAGO – Backlash against bottled water is spreading, prompting bans on the plastic bottles at city-sponsored events in some communities, their removal from restaurant menus and campaigns urging the use of tap water instead.

The newest tactic is being debated here. Chicago Mayor Richard Daley has endorsed a proposal to add a 10-cent tax to each bottle, which would bring the city about $21 million a year.

“It’s not a tax on water, it’s a tax on plastic,” says Alderman George Cardenas, who introduced the measure to help offset revenue declines from the city water system, reduce litter and decrease the amount of oil used to produce and transport bottled water.

The bottled water industry reported sales of $10.8 billion last year as Americans drank 8.2 billion gallons, up from 2.2 billion in 1990, the Beverage Marketing Corp. says.

Criticism of the industry is unfair, says Joe Doss, president of the International Bottled Water Association, which represents 450 bottlers, suppliers and distributors. The amount of plastic used in bottles has been reduced, he says. At their convention in Las Vegas this week, members are discussing ways to encourage recycling and to make bottling plants more environmentally friendly. “Consumers will continue to drink bottled water because they know it’s a safe and healthy product,” Doss says.
(18 October 2007)