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Closing the Loop
Resources for finding and using salvaged and reprocessed materials in the landscape.
By Meg Calkins, ASLA

One person's trash, goes the old saying, is another person's treasure.

"An old, unwanted pile of used cedar power poles behind a warehouse can be transformed into beautiful pieces of wood for a new trellis," explains David Amalong of the Denver EDAW office. "The materials go from unwanted to wanted—that's the beauty of reusing salvaged materials."

Salvaged/reused materials differ from recycled materials in that recycled materials are remanufactured between uses. Salvaged materials are reused in whole form. While using recycled materials does reuse resources and keeps materials from the waste steam, energy is used and pollutants can be released during the re-manufacturing process. Degrees of recycling vary. Some materials, such as asphalt and concrete, are just reprocessed (ground or crushed), not completely remanufactured into new recycled-content materials as is plastic lumber.

Reusing salvaged and reprocessed materials in new landscape projects has many benefits. On the environmental end, materials are kept out of landfills, and virgin resources and energy that would have gone to manufacture new materials are saved. From a design standpoint, reusing materials can add a layer of meaning to a project, revealing the cultural history of a place that is often difficult to achieve with mass-produced, internationally distributed, new materials. Salvaged materials are sometimes unique and one of a kind. Lastly, using salvaged and reprocessed materials can often be cost effective, saving material acquisition expenses and demolition hauling and landfill expenses if used on site.

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