How to Reduce Waste, Reuse and Recycle During Your Renovation
Waste is a significant environmental issue on projects – how can we help to divert as much as possible from landfill?
There’s a growing movement among renovation professionals to help homeowners make more sustainable choices and reduce waste, as well as more ideas than ever for reuse and recycling when renovating. Here, four professionals committed to working sustainably and tackling the problem of waste share their learnings.
Professional advice from: Jecks Stone of Persona Abode; Angus Eitel of fiftypointeight Architecture + Interiors; Looeeze Grossman of The Used Kitchen Company; Felicity White of Felicity White Interiors
Starting your renovation? Read How to Renovate Sustainably
General construction accounts for 60% of the waste created in the UK, according to interior designer Jecks Stone, a founding signatory of Interior Design Declares (IDD), which pledges to tackle climate change and the biodiversity crisis by improving industry practices.
Architect Angus Eitel, whose firm is signed up to the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge, adds, “There’s evidence on larger construction sites that on-site recycling is set up better, but it’s quite difficult to do the sorting on-site for a smaller project. As a result, all the waste goes into the skip.
“It’s not just the waste of the raw material itself,” he continues, “it’s the extensive packaging – so much plastic wrapping, timber pallets and the like that have nothing to do with the building itself.”
“However, when it comes to replacing a kitchen, most homeowners tend to throw their own kitchen – all materials included – into a skip,” she says. “This is irrespective of the quality of the materials, or the kitchen’s potential to be reused in the future. Most people just don’t realise that a kitchen can be used again.”
More: How Can I Renovate My Kitchen Sustainably?
Referring to the Interior Design Declares network, Jecks says, “By improving industry practices, we are ultimately also helping households to do the same.”
Felicity White, another IDD signatory, says more and more companies are starting to use waste in the manufacture of their products – from plastic to denim offcuts to coffee chaff.
“Budget-wise, though, these aren’t viable for some homeowners,” she acknowledges. “There’s also a resurgence of vintage and antiques shops and businesses, making it easier to find good-quality pieces already proven to stand the test of time.”
On the issue of second-hand, Looeeze hopes pre-loved kitchens will become part of our renovation vocabulary. “Kitchen recycling has the potential to extend the lifetime of our resources and massively reduce the amount of waste we produce,” she says.
Find the right people for your project by searching the Houzz Professionals Directory.
Internal doors and windows are often binned, according to Felicity. “Doors could be spray-painted, updated or sold on,” she says. “Salvage yards would happily take original doors from period properties. With newer windows, innovations in UPVC paints mean you can refresh tired-looking plastic frames for a new look.”
“Reclamation yards are also good for wood and solid stone, leftover paints can be donated to paint-reuse organisations, and fabrics and wallcoverings can be donated to local schools,” Jecks adds. Many high street shops now also have charity bins for textile waste that’s used to make cushion inserts and the like.
“On the other end of the scale, large furniture pieces, especially items made from natural materials, should also never reach landfill. It’s sad when well-made furniture is left outside to rot,” she says. “Also, upholstered furniture ends up going to landfill because it doesn’t have a fire label.” Instead, she says, furniture can be sold or given away online.
to reduce waste on a project?
Choose your professional carefully. Is your designer or architect on board with reducing waste? Will they encourage reinventing what you already have or the use of sustainable materials?
What about your builder? How thorough is their preferred skip hire company in sorting waste, and what’s their attitude to reconfiguring rather than installing brand new?
“It’s important to communicate [the reduction of waste] as a priority from your first meetings,” Felicity says. “It will also help you to work out who you want to work with and if they share the same ethos as you. I always ask clients at the initial consultations to think about what they want to keep, and what’s in good condition and could be repurposed or sold on.”
Felicity mentions the contractors she used on a recent project. “They helped us realise we could reuse a window frame elsewhere, which saved it going to landfill and saved us some money,” she says. “They also had their own storage yard, so any useful materials we didn’t need went there to be used on their future projects.”
Jecks believes we should all place a greater emphasis on honing a long-term design aesthetic and going beyond trends.
“Part of making good choices is also having the right information on hand. Lean on designers to advise you on creating a timeless look with long-term durability [that’s suitable] for your lifestyle,” she says. “We can also provide information on maintenance – aftercare is a factor for items being discarded as they become broken or damaged.”
“For storage,” Felicity says, “I steer clients towards bespoke or semi-bespoke options, as these will stand the test of time better than flatpack. Also, allocate more of your budget to high-quality items that you’ll use every day, such as in bathrooms and kitchens.”
“Be careful of being too adventurous,” Looeeze says. “You may well fall out of love with the orange gloss kitchen you initially fell for, not to mention the challenge you’ll face when trying to find it a new home.”
Her most popular kitchen style also reinforces the idea of choosing timeless and well-made over flimsy and faddy. “The painted kitchen is our number one seller,” she says, “due to its timeless look and ability to be repainted to look like new.”
What measures have you taken to reduce waste in a building project – and what were the challenges? Share your tips in the Comments.