General Question

ALM's avatar

How much building debris is salvaged after a natural disaster?

Asked by ALM (64 points ) August 16th, 2007

When I see the beautiful iron work, stain glass windows, door hardware, and tiles that are left in the rubble after tsunamis and earthquakes I've always wondered how much material is salvaged and how much is thrown away. I would love to buy wrought iron work salvaged from a building that was destroyed in Katrina as a way to put money back into the local economy in New Orleans. Is there a non-profit that does this type of work?

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7 Answers

gooch's avatar

Most people hire demolition/cleanup crews whos main interest is quick money. Restoration and salvage is not "quick" money in comparison to demolition. They actually get more money to clear out quickly, so off to the dump the trucks go after the heavy equiptment levels and loads the property so the reconstruction can begin. After a disaster business need to get up and running ASAP because they are losing money each day they are not open. Homeowners just want their life back ASAP. Therefore salvage take a low priority. It is ashamed but true.

ALM's avatar

My friend is down in Peru helping with the aftermath of the earthquake. She says that beautiful old tiles and other reusable material are just being thrown away. Is there any way to send a scout - or a professional dumpster diver of sorts - to comb these landfills for reusable material? I thought that homeowners would hold on to things of value and reuse it in their rebuilding efforts, but new materials are so cheap that I am afraid there is no economic incentive in place for salvaging. If you hear of any programs or companies that provide this type of economic incentive, please let me know. Thanks.

steelmarket's avatar

Even if you rescue building materials, such as your Peruvian tiles, they must be hand sorted, cleaned, boxed, shipped, etc. This is very labor-intensive, and a lot of man-hours usually means a lot of cost (perhaps not in Peru). This frequently makes the cost of rescued building materials far higher than new materials. There are a few rare exceptions, such as certain bricks. The rising green movement in US construction may change all of this. LEED standards are driving many building materials to be recyclable (which is quite different from reusable).

kimmielittleone's avatar

@ALM…Their answers are sad…But your Question and bringing this to light,.. very cool
( on the kimmie cool meter ).

Thank Y/you
kimmie

jvgr's avatar

Salvaging as a form of sweat equity for yourself is always good.

pekenoe's avatar

In poorer nations, as opposed to throw away society nations, the material is salvaged and reused.

Here, get real. Recycle millions of dollars in material when the government is building you a new house free…... or, if you’re not a freeloader and actually had insurance, the insurance company is building you a new one. Kidding… right?

I’d love to dig into those piles, it’s a huge shame and a black eye on our society.

Kayak8's avatar

Part of this tendency not to reuse, though, does depend on the nature of the disaster and its impact (chemical, biological, etc.) on the materials. People are also a little squirrely about re-using things from sites where many people died (biological).

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