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Nantucket groups launch salvage study to boost preservation, cut waste

Jason Graziadei/WCAI

Two Nantucket groups are conducting a building materials salvage study to better understand how much reusable material is thrown away during construction and demolition projects on the island.

Each year, according to the Nantucket Preservation Trust and ReMain Nantucket, an estimated 8,800 tons of construction and demolition waste are shipped off island for disposal, which is not only a sustainability problem, but a historic preservation problem.

“So they're ending up in a landfill somewhere in southern Ohio. And that's something that has really concerned us from a sustainability standpoint,” said Mary Bergman, executive director of the trust.

Those resources could be re-purposed in other homes on the island to maintain their historic character.

“When we’re talking about 8,800 tons of construction demolition waste, that could be everything from a window to a cast-iron bathtub to a 200-year-old beam that’s in a house,” Bergman said.

“The whole island is a national historic landmark. We have more than 800 pre-Civil War structures. Just because something is old, that doesn’t mean that it's reached the end of useful life, and there are plenty of houses that, as they're repaired, need like kind of materials.”

The study, which is now under way with the help of economic consultants EBP, is the first step toward determining whether an architectural salvage and reuse facility would make economic sense for the island.

“We're going to look at what businesses would benefit from material salvage, estimate what is the existing and potential supply of reusable materials, and get into the community more to talk about what are the attitudes around deconstruction,” Bergman said.

The study, funded by the charitable conservation group ReMain Nantucket, is also expected to explore how keeping recycled materials on-island could cut carbon emissions, how it could affect the existing workforce, and whether using reusable materials could affect housing prices.

Eve Zuckoff covers the environment and human impacts of climate change for CAI.