What is Beneficial Reuse?

You’ve surely heard the saying, “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.”  Seeing the potential usefulness of waste is the very essence of beneficial reuse. On a small scale, those of us who haunt flea markets and garage sales are no strangers to the concept. But for companies looking to repurpose their overstock, or old inventory and those looking to buy this way, the impacts are large scale. Read on to find out more about beneficial reuse and how it can help your bottom line as a company.

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The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines beneficial reuse as reusing a waste material that would otherwise be discarded. Unlike the basket that someone turns into a lamp, a commodity has recognized value on a commercial scale, such as a bowling alley floor as your new backdrop in a restaurant.

Various departments and agencies of the federal government have their own variations on the EPA definition and developed beneficial reuse strategies based on the type of waste involved. For example, the EPA classifies spent caustics and chemicals–when beneficially used without an intermediate reclamation process–as products (commodities) rather than solid waste.

Examples of Beneficial Reuse

In many cases, beneficial reuse targets a byproduct or spent materials from an industrial process that can be used in another process. This is especially true in the paper industry, where beneficial reuses have been identified for such substances as lime, pulp, ash, sludge, paper scraps, bark, knots, and more. Beneficial reuses have also been found for the spent caustics, oil, spent catalysts, oily sludge, and biosolids from oil refineries.

Beneficial reuse can involve reusing byproducts or spent materials again within the same company, or selling it to another company, such as us at RepurposedMATERIALS, for an alternative use. For example, iron foundries have identified alternative uses of foundry byproducts like sands and slags to replace raw materials in roadway construction, thereby trading in the expense of solid waste disposal for income gained by selling those byproducts. The railroad industry has repurposed similarly and you can see some of the products RepurposedMATERIALS have helped them reuse here.

Beneficial Reuse of Construction and Demolition Materials

Public and private structures (from bridges and roadways to residential and commercial buildings to mobile homes) are the source of many types of construction and demolition (C&D) materials ideal for beneficial reuse. The EPA regards certain types of debris resulting from construction, renovation, and demolition activities as commodities for beneficial reuse in new construction. When beneficial reuse is the intent, buildings are carefully dismantled through deconstruction rather than demolition.

C&D materials include concrete, wood, asphalt, gypsum, various metals, glass, plastics, bricks, salvaged doors, windows, pipes, plumbing fixtures and other building components, as well as trees, rock, sand, and earth from clearing building sites. You can see some of our repurposed inventory involving that here. Markets exist for all these materials.

For example, salvaged asphalt and concrete can be used in creating aggregate for new roads and foundations or in new asphalt or concrete, making up 80% to 90% of the new mix. Reclaimed wood can end up as mulch, compost or recycled into engineered wood products like plywood, laminated veneer lumber, or medium density fiberboard.

Economic and Social Value of Beneficial Reuse

Such materials have value as commodities when businesses such as RepurposedMATERIALS exist to reclaim them and make them widely available for purchase as a substitute for “virgin” materials. Materials with potential for beneficial reuse also have societal value to the extent they help communities and businesses meet waste reduction goals and support cost-effective sustainability. Beneficial reuse diverts materials from the waste stream, keeping them out of landfills.

Society benefits from having environmentally safe alternatives to waste disposal. The EPA has identified waste reduction as playing a key role in reducing the emission of greenhouse gasses that contribute to global warming and climate change by cutting down on the materials and energy that would otherwise go into producing new items. Beneficial reuse is key to achieving that goal. Contact RepurposedMATERIALS today to find out how we can help you find a new home for the unwanted materials.