Construction, renovation and demolition (CRD) waste represents a large share of waste generated in Canada – about 12%1 or 4 million tonnes.  What does 4 million tonnes look like?  About 2.5 million SUVs.   

Most of CRD waste comes from residential waste of which about 80% ends up in landfills.  In 2019, we dumped almost 9 million tonnes of waste into our landfills in Ontario, an increase of 6.2% from the previous year.   At the rate waste is piling up, Ontario’s landfills will be full in about 15 years.   Landfills contribute about 6% of greenhouse gas and although CRD waste is considered high-volume waste, it’s not the worst offender when it comes to landfill emissions.  The worst offenders are organic waste, a main contributor of methane emissions (producing greenhouse gas), and electronic waste which may contain toxic and hazardous substances, such as mercury or lead that could pose risks to our health and environment.  Not only is waste damaging our environment but it also comes at a significant cost to our municipalities who are responsible for collecting and managing residential waste – funded by you, the taxpayer.  Local government expenditure for waste management was $3.2 billion in 2012, increased from $1.8 billion in 2004.   

The more significant environmental impact of CRD waste happens before it gets dumped into landfills – this is why it’s so important to reuse, recycle or repurpose.  Most of the environmental damage happens during the making of new building materials.  For example, the extraction of raw materials, such as wood and metals, is energy and water intensive and harms wildlife and natural habitats - and it’s estimated that about 40% of raw materials in North America are used in construction.  And that’s just the beginning of the process of making something new - the environmental damage continues from manufacturing to transportation.   

Sadly, a research study conducted a few years ago by the Burlington ReStore revealed that only 28% of builders took direct action to manage their construction waste.  Understandably there are many barriers to salvaging and recycling for builders, including higher costs, but it’s interesting to note that residential homebuilding, unlike commercial construction, is not regulated for proper source separation to ensure diversion from landfills.  In addition, a recent survey by Habitat for Humanity Canada tells us that few people recycle household items and building supplies, and that they are more likely to put home accessories, such as a sofa or lamp, into the garbage.   

So, what can you do?  Rethink.  You can shift your mindset and embrace the circular economy which means products are never discarded – they are reused, repaired, repurposed or recycled at end-of-life reducing waste and harm to our environment.   

Here’s a few actions you can take.   

Contact Habitat for Humanity ReStore GTA if you’re planning a home renovation.  They will dismantle and remove your old windows, doors, working appliances, kitchen cabinets, and bathroom vanities – for free!   These items are sold at Habitat ReStores where they can be given a second life in another home and proceeds go to Habitat GTA’s home ownership program.  This program supports home building projects for families in need of affordable housing in our communities.  Plus, you get a tax donation receipt!   

In addition, consider conducting a waste audit as part of your planning for your home building project.  These audits can help identify waste diversion potential (potential to reuse or recycle), waste handling and storage requirements, as well as costs and potential savings.  During your project, ensure your contractor uses designated bins for recyclable materials – it ensures waste reduction is integral to the project and reinforces its importance while working on-site.   Also consider deconstruction which requires selective disassembly instead of the conventional demolition which bulldozes an entire house into a dusty pile of ruble.   

Donate to Habitat Restores if you’re updating your home décor.  When you donate household items such as furniture and lighting fixtures, you’re helping Habitat for Humanity GTA achieve its purpose to build affordable homes.   

Shop at Habitat ReStores to discover that unique vintage or retro piece and save big on items!  Each of the GTA ReStores has its own distinctive inventory of items changing daily as new items are donated.   

Over the past 30 years, Habitat ReStores have diverted nearly half a million tonnes of waste from landfills! Donating and shopping at Habitat ReStores means you are contributing to the circular economy.  You’re making a socially and environmentally conscious decision – you keep building materials and furniture items out of landfills, reduce environmental harm, and help fund home building projects for those in need of affordable housing in our communities! 

Habitat for Humanity GTA operates non-profit home improvement retail stores across the GTA called Habitat ReStore. These stores sell donated home furnishings, appliances and building materials at a fraction of the original price. Habitat ReStores help fund Habitat for Humanity GTA who build homes for families in need of affordable housing in our communities.  

You can shop online and arrange doorstep delivery within the GTA for $89 or in-store pick-up at a Habitat ReStore location.