Every tree product from seed to sawdust is a candidate for reuse in the Eco Relics woodshop. For Eco Relics fabricator Billy Leeka, “using salvaged materials gives purpose to something that still has value. It’s a good reflection on a business to see they are doing their part to keep these materials out of landfills, and they have a one-of-a-kind piece of furniture with a story behind it for their trouble.” Working with salvage is a transformative experience that turns trash into treasure, and trash had better turn into something because the world is running out of places to put it.
More than 60 million tons of building material make its way into landfills every year in America, accounting for a large percentage of total waste. Landfills aren’t just unsightly neighbors, they can be downright dangerous. As food waste rots underground, it generates flammable methane gas. When the gas ignites, the resulting toxic smolder can be very difficult to extinguish. An underground landfill fire in St. Louis has been burning for five years, releasing toxic concentrations of benzene and hydrogen sulfide. As it spreads, the fire threatens to contaminate the water supply with radioactive compounds.
Finding suitable locations for new landfills is difficult. The EPA will not permit landfill construction in environmentally sensitive areas like wetlands and floodplains. In Florida, water is everywhere. As the state population grows, development encroaches on lower-lying areas, increasing the pressure to build landfills on less-desirable sites. Landfills require much expensive maintenance, and when they are located near human habitation, the stakes are deadly serious. Disruption of groundwater monitoring and leachate collection will contaminate surrounding soil and groundwater and continue to spread. Disrupting erosion control practices can expose previously buried waste, potentially contaminating the air with toxic gasses. Even closed landfills require long-term care.
Reducing the need for more landfills is core to Eco Relics’ mission. But who says you can’t mitigate human ecological impacts in style? From posh interior designers to dumpster diving DIY enthusiasts, one thing is clear: architectural salvage is a unique source for one-of-a-kind building materials, and nobody does it greener than Eco Relics.