Residential recycling: How can homeowners keep their unwanted supplies out of landfills?

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Habitat for Humanity’s Habitat Store will take everything from building supplies—like lumber and drywall—to appliances, lighting and sinks. Photo: Ashley Twiggs Habitat for Humanity’s Habitat Store will take everything from building supplies—like lumber and drywall—to appliances, lighting and sinks. Photo: Ashley Twiggs

What’s better than finding that perfect vintage material to reuse in your home? Donating that perfect vintage material for others to cherish for years to come.

Or at least it was for C.J. Stands, whose dream plot with a view in Lynchburg was blighted by a water-damaged house when he purchased it. “We thought we would knock it down and take it to the dump,” Stands says. “But we found a company that took basically everything except the cinder block masonry from the foundation. It was an everybody-wins situation.”

The problem for some is figuring out how to look beyond the landfill. Locally, options are limited, but they are out there. And if you’re willing to go farther afield like Stands, full-service, turnkey recyclers can do all the work for you.

Locally outsourced

For homeowners who not only want to upcycle their unwanted housewares but also help a local organization, a bit of work is in store.

The primary option for local salvage is Habitat for Humanity’s Habitat Store. In addition to the hardware, cabinets, furniture, appliances, lighting, artwork, toilets, sinks and other functional items you can donate to any used goods store, Habitat will take building supplies like lumber, drywall and particle board.

But be advised you can’t ask the nonprofit to do everything for you, says operations manager David Winder.

“The biggest key is that we don’t deconstruct or disassemble or disconnect anything,” Winder says. “The materials have to be disconnected and ready to go.”

Habitat also prefers to receive items in good condition, as its resources are limited when it comes to refurbishment.

Once you’ve done the work of organizing your materials and housewares, Habitat will pick everything up and cart it away free of charge. It’ll provide you with a receipt for your donation, and you can assign a value to the goods for a tax write-off.

If you plan to do your recycling in the spring, prepare for others to be scheduling Habitat pickups, as well. “We’ll see it starting up again in April,” Winder says. “We do up to six houses in a spring or summer, as well as businesses.”

Regional recycling

Homeowners looking to recycle their recliners and refrigerators tout suite can look to several companies around the country to provide a turnkey solution.

Stands landed with Baltimore-based Second Chance, which not only takes your goods as a tax-deductible donation, but deconstructs, disassembles and organizes your materials as well.

“It was like reverse building,” Stands says of watching the process, which took about two and a half weeks and didn’t cause significant delays in his own house development project. “When they finished, it was a pile of cement blocks they couldn’t reuse.”

Stands says that in addition to saving him the money it would have cost to dispose of his water-damaged house, as well as being green—giving your throwaways a second chance rather than piling them on the trash heap—Second Chance employs ex-convicts and others with barriers to jobs. That kind of community service was important to him. “I thought it was too good to be true,” he says.

Stands did remove a few high-value items, such as copper roofing and downspouts, from his tear down before Second Chance came in. It was a step both he and his project architect, Adams Sutphin, recommended.

“In my world, there is a huge market for architectural antiques,” Sutphin says. “And then there is the whole reclaimed lumber market. There has been a big uptick in where you see reclaimed wood.”

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