Summary

Construction and building material, from doors, electrical fixtures and equipment, to lighting, lumber, metal, plumbing, plywood, sinks and showers, accounts for 38% of the waste stream in the Houston area. The Building Materials Reuse Warehouse,xxxv launched by a grant from the Houston Galveston Area Council and the City of Houston Solid Waste Management Department, benefits the community by providing space for excess building materials that would otherwise be dumped in local landfills. The Warehouse accepts material from individuals, supply companies and builders, and makes it freely available for reuse by any non-profit organization. The concept is simple: the more they take, the more room the Warehouse has to accept more material.xxxvi The Warehouse has also recently built a community centre, to create a workshop and meeting space and promote further the ‘reuse’ and sharing resources concept.

 

Results

The City of Houston Building Materials Reuse Warehouse now forms part of a network of Houston local community organizations working to keep reusable building materials out of the landfills and to put them into the hands of those that can use them. While the Reuse Warehouse focuses on providing materials to non-profit organizations, many of the other local organizations also make materials available to individuals. By 2015, the project has diverted 3,000 tons of material from landfillxxxvii and has given away 90% of that. Apart from helping the waste diversion, the project also brings the Houston community together and allows businesses and individuals donating material to free up their storage space.

 

Reasons for success

Construction and demolition (C&D) waste can represent a major contributor to a city’s waste stream, particularly in rapidly growing cities. Developing simple programs that make it easy for generators to participate in the reuse of C&D materials is essential to avoid these materials from getting mixed with general waste and subsequently becoming more difficult to recycle or reuse. Houston’s Reuse Warehouse is an exemplary implementation of a community programme that incentivises not just material reuse but also community engagement to exchange ideas and projects for increased sustainability in construction projects. 

 

C40 Good Practice Guides

C40's Good Practice Guides offer mayors and urban policymakers roadmaps for tackling climate change, reducing climate risk and encouraging sustainable urban development. With 100 case studies taken from cities of every size, geography and stage of development around the world, the Good Practice Guides provide tangible examples of climate solutions that other cities can learn from. 

The Waste to Resources Good Practice Guide is available for download here.  The full collection of C40 Good Practice Guides is available for download here.  

All references can be found in the full guide.