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Material Conservation and Reuse

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Sustainable Materials Management Report EPAIn the past 50 years, humans have consumed more resources than in all of previous history and consumption in the United States nearly tripled between 1960 and 2008. We use these materials to produce energy, to construct buildings, to maintain infrastructure, and to supply our basic needs. Materials harvesting produces jobs and has built entire towns, but there are sometimes dire environmental consequences in the form of phenomena such as habitat destruction, biodiversity loss, and desertification.

In 1900, 41 percent of the materials used in the United States were renewable (agricultural, fishery, and forestry products), but by 1995 only six percent of materials consumed were renewable. The majority of materials presently consumed in the United States are nonrenewable including metals, minerals, and fossil-fuel derived products. The current patterns of material use have unsustainable implications for the environment, the economy and potentially our existence. It is crucial for us to change our relationship with materials, in order to secure a prosperous future.

Click the image to read the EPA's engaging study
and recommendations for reducing material consumption

This is a big issue, and not one that we can solve locally. But like all things sustainable, we can do our part to help. In Fort Lauderdale, when we see opportunities, we are testing new methods and new products that could lead to reduced material consumption in City operations. We hope that our neighbors will do the same.

Follow Our Lead 

FXE LEED equip and service bldgSuccess-story-smThe City is working to endorse the conservation and reuse of materials in new projects such as the Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport’s Aviation Equipment and Service Facility building which is LEED Gold certified.  The building earned credits for several LEED requirements that promote materials conservation.  During the process, the project leaders recycled or salvaged at least 75 percent of non-hazardous construction and demolition debris. This effort is significant because it diverts debris from disposal in landfills and incinerators, redirects recyclable materials back to the manufacturing process and redirects reusable materials to appropriate sites. Additionally, over ten percent of the total materials value was extracted, harvested, recovered or manufactured within 500 miles of the project site. This effort supports the use of local resources and reduces the environmental impacts resulting from transporting the materials. 

Apart from the LEED certification requirements, the airport started to recycle asphalt to build an access road back in 2004. The Access road is used by operations staff, maintenance staff and police. The road enables staff to move from one side of the property to another without crossing the active runway. Since 2004, millings from any pavement project are set aside and then added to the access road in order to reinforce and smooth it out. The greater benefit of this recycling program is to reduce the carbon footprint of the dump trucks that would otherwise be making long hauls to a storage site. 

What You Can Do

There are ways that you can conserve materials in your everyday routine. 

  • Buy less and re-use more. This is the surest way to prevent new materials consumption. 
  • When comparing products which seem equal inperformance and quality, choose the one with less material itself and with less packaging. 
  • Try to learn where the materials that go into a product were sourced. Buy sustainably sourced materials when possible.
  • Purchase products made from post-consumer recycled content.

Post-consumer recycled content include items that have served their intended use for the initial consumer and have been diverted or recovered, broken down into their base components, and re-manufactured into a "new" raw material.  Purchasing products made from this material helps to: conserve virgin materials and resources, save energy, reduce pollution, reduce waste and support recycling programs.

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