Recycling the Unrecyclable

Recycling the Unrecyclable

It is nearly impossible to talk about materials today without invoking a full-fledged powwow about life cycle analysis, carbon footprints, and potential upcycling. Especially in the building industry, where many materials cannot be recycled using conventional means, product life is often prematurely shortened -- due to a lack of connection between material source and knowledge of where it could be used in the world. Enter SocialCycling, a new program that aims to facilitate exactly this.
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SocialCycling, a new program launched by DMD Green earlier this month, seeks to divert unwanted, difficult-to-recycle materials from landfills and facilitates their use into new, second-life products. For instance, take vinyl-coated fabrics -- a very difficult-to-recycle material. SocialCycling would collect and sort it at their site, and after going through a network of recyclers, converters and community groups, could deliver it to workrooms in a developing country to be turned into backpacks for school children.

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I corresponded with Jason Warnock, managing partner of DMD Green, and was very curious as to how SocialCycling would be more catered to the large-scale needs of the architecture industry than current product upcycling programs (for example, TerraCycle).  He responded:

"Our goal with the A&D community is to integrate SocialCycling from both the top down and bottom up strategy simultaneously.  Architectural product manufacturers will be able to include information into their specifications about how their material may be SocialCycled at the end of its lifecycle; this in turn could be included in the construction documents and turned over the the building owner or lease holder. Conversely from the top down, major renovations, demos, etc would include a SocialCycling material audit to develop a strategy to convert, recycle, or re-use all the materials in the most efficient manner possible."

Social use for waste materials? Always a bright concept. I'm eager to see SocialCycling make many more future matches between discarded building materials and specific communities in need.

Tiffany Chu
Besides writing and designing, Tiffany Chu's passions include photography, cartography, and all things Scandinavian.


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