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Recycled Building Materials for a Sustainable Living

Recycling is an eco-friendly process of collecting and processing materials to convert them into a usable alternative. Otherwise, they might end up in the trash and landfills. The recycled materials thus obtained are ready to start their journey as a new material in the market.

Recycled materials
Image source : ny-engineers.com

The major concern in industries is the safe disposal of their used products. Things get worse if those industrial wastes are non-biodegradable and plastic. 

Thankfully, technological advances have opened doors to alternative use of these industrial leftovers and convert them into recycled material. During construction, the demolition remains are collected, processed, and introduced back into the industry as recycled building materials.

Read on as we discuss recycled building materials, their types, and the benefits these materials contribute toward sustainable living.

What are Recycled Building Materials?

Recycled building material includes the repurposed and ready-to-use components of the infrastructures. The demolition and construction remains of the buildings, roads, and bridges are recycled and reused in the construction of other structures and buildings.

The recyclable materials include concrete, steel, glass, wood, flooring, and drywall. It could also include building components like doors, windows, frames, faucets, and fixtures.

Why should you use Recycled Materials? 

After demolishing any physical infrastructure, the construction team allocates a separate team to discard the debris from the site. Even though some doors and frames are claimed for future use, most of those demolitions remain in landfills and dump yards.


  • Increase in carbon emission
  • Higher global temperature 
  • Increase in the sea level
  • Depletion of air and water resources.

Opting for recycled materials reduces the overall carbon footprint and allows a sustainable future for future generations.

Advantages of Choosing Recycled Materials

Introducing recycled building materials in the construction industry paves the way for many positive and sustainable impacts. These benefits are broadly classified into environmental, economic, and community aspects.

1. Environmental Aspects :

The environmental aspects include-

  • Saves resources and energy– The material resources and energy utilized to generate new material can be avoided when we opt for recycled material. Even though both undergo processing, recycled material uses very minimal energy. And of course, no new raw materials are needed. 
  • Controls the landfill volumes- The construction remains are usually dumped in the overflowing landfills. Recycling materials are great alternatives to avoid such additional load on the landfills. 
  • Lowers the impact on the atmosphere- Improperly treated waste reacts with wet waste and damages the groundwater table. It also pollutes the atmosphere by releasing harmful gases when incarnated.

2. Economical Aspects :

The Economical aspects include-

  • Saves cost- The cost used to make recycled material is way lower than the new ones. Raw material, labor, and processing are relatively cheaper when you work with recycled material.
  • Provides tax benefits- As an initiative to encourage eco-friendly living, the governments usually provide freebies, loans, and other incentives when you opt for recycled building materials.
  • Bonus points on LEED certification- Using recycled materials allow the architects to receive additional points for their LEED certificate ( green building rating certificate)
  • Ease of permits and usage-  The architects often scrutinize the materials they use. As an initiative to encourage sustainable living, these materials get easy permits and sanctions, unlike new ones.

3. Community Aspects :

The community aspects include,

  • Job opportunity for the needful communities- New companies and recycling plants are growing rapidly, which allocates more jobs. Solving major problems for unemployed individuals.

Commonly Used Recycled Materials :

The versatility of the building materials obtained from the construction sites leads to several recycled options. Some of the commonly used recycled building materials are listed below,


Recycled Materials
Image source – civilenggnotes.com

Concrete is one of the most commonly recycled building materials. As they are sturdy and durable, they easily find their place in the recycling business. Removing the other building materials like the gypsum, adhesives, and mortars is important while extracting the pure concrete from the used ones. 

The recycled concrete is widely used in landscaping as stones, boulders, etc. It is also a base for roads, driveways, and parking lots.


Recycled Materials
Image source – inhabitat.com

Recycled woods are usually towards the high end of the budget. Due to its labor-intensive preparations like cleaning, nail removal, and smoothening, they call for costly makeovers.

However, recycled wood is fast-moving material and can be used as wooden decks of the garden as a flooring material. It is also used in farmhouses for building cattle and poultry sheds.


Image source – rubicon.com

The versatility of steel along with its durability makes it one of the most recycled building materials. Recycled steel is used in multiple industries like transport, automation, and technologies. 

Fun fact? 100% of the steel scraps are recycled.

Every time new rods are manufactured, 60% are from these recycled steel, and only 40% is allotted to its raw version. These materials save so much money and resources for the building owners. 

Asphalt Shingles

Image source -istockphoto.com

The roofs predominantly have asphalt shingles in them and most of them are removed every year to be replaced with fresh ones. To make things worse, these shingles don’t degrade easily. Thus recycling them is the only way to sustain them.

These recycled asphalt shingles are used in all repair renovation works for roadways and driveways. They are also used as patchwork on pothole repairs.


Image source – cdrecycling.org

Materials like drywall can cause serious damage to the environment if they are not treated properly. Drywall in landfills can initiate harmful chemical reactions and change the pH value of the groundwater.

Recycling drywall is hard; most of it returns to the drywall factories to be made into new drywall.


Image source – zameen.com

Single pane and non-treated glasses can be recycled infinite times and return to their pure state. However, colored and chemically treated glasses are difficult to retrieve back to their pure state.

Architecture plays a hefty contribution to the wide scope of these recycled materials. The best part is that architecture provides opportunities for both the availability and application of recycled building materials. 

Understanding the need of the hour is important. Right now, it’s all about environmental well-being. The responsibilities fall equally on the shoulders of the professional experts and the homeowners. 

If opting for recycled building material can save cost, energy, and time yet improve your building’s efficiency, doesn’t it sound like a smart investment?

By Hajara Banu

Hajara Banu is a professional architect, content writer, and strategist. She is on her journey to share her love of architecture, design, and content creation. Besides writing, Hajara loves coffee and often experiments with cooking and organizing in her free time.

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