Housing boom sending mounds of reusable material to Vancouver landfill
When homes are torn down and replaced in Metro Vancouver, they leave behind piles of reusable items – everything from granite countertops to flooring.
Unfortunately, the new owners often have no interest in selling them and builders have nowhere to store them, which is why some in the industry claim the majority of recyclable material is ending up at the dump.
"I would say 75 to 80 per cent of this stuff does go to the landfill," said Doug Langford, owner of JDL Homes.
"We don't have the space or the manpower to have a big warehouse to store this stuff and maybe sell it to someone else later on. That's just not realistic."
For their part, builders like Langford and Mark Cooper, president of Shakespeare Homes, insist they're doing what they can to avoid turning perfectly useable items into trash.
"I've seen beautiful soaker tubs come out of homes that I can tell have never been used," Cooper said. "There just has to be a better way."
That process generally involves consulting with homeowners about whether they're interested in paying one of the several companies that have sprung up to deal with these very issues, such as Surrey's New and Used Building Materials.
Then there is the option of donating items to Habitat for Humanity for its ReStore locations, though Cooper said he's had hauls turned away before.
"They didn't have room for it,” he said. “So then we drove it over to the Salvation Army and we got the same story there, unfortunately.”
Habitat for Humanity's storage is limited, and the organization usually asks people to make appointments for drop-offs to ensure there's space.
There's also the Vancouver Zero Waste Centre, formerly known as the Recycling Depot, which accepts some large appliances such as freezers and air conditioners, but only three at a time. And most items from demolished homes can't be left there, according to the builders.
So what's the solution? Langford and Cooper argue municipal governments should be getting more involved, potentially by providing storage space for what would amount to a giant giveaway area for Metro Vancouverites.
"That would be like the ultimate garage sale with no price to it. I think there are families that would turn that over all the time," Cooper said.
The builders would like to see it set up at the landfill, where the people who are coming and going daily would be able to see what's being offered up for free.
While the City of Vancouver said the idea poses potential "liability challenges,” it is under consideration.
"[Vancouver] is always looking to achieve continuous improvement with our processes," a spokesperson said in an email. "Through partnerships with local non-profits we may be able to offer something on a smaller scale at the landfill in the future."
The government could also impose stricter rules around recycling. Vancouver currently requires crews to reuse and recycle at least 75 per cent of the material from homes built before 1940, but there's nothing like that in place for newer properties.
The city is moving toward greener options, however. While its Zero Waste Centre doesn't accept a lot of the material that comes from demolished homes, it does take in several kinds of items that weren't allowed back when it was the Recycling Depot, including light fixtures and electronics.
With files from CTV Vancouver's Shannon Paterson