Recyclables in the Landscape

Recyclables in the Landscape

It is becoming commonplace to see recyclables in the landscape (Reciclables En El Paisaje) made from household items that in the past would end up in a landfill.

LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) is one of the major incentives for using recycled materials in landscape designs.

Construction companies can earn LEED points for repurposing building materials. Another major impetus for recycling is the shrinking of space in county landfills - not to mention the ever escalating costs for dumping material into a landfill.

Plastic bags, water bottles and milk jugs, glass, and old tires are a sampling of “trash” that can be recycled for use outdoors.

Plastics, especially, are becoming the ingredients of many outdoor products. For example, TREX is a brand of simulated wood made from old grocery plastic bags. It is being used extensively on decks and marinas because of its durability, moisture resistance, and strength. TREX is also available is several colors.

There are some interlocking pavers whose ingredients consist of plastic milk jugs and water bottles, and glass. They are used in non-vehicular paving applications, on playgrounds, and around pools. They, too, come in various colors.

Discarded glass bottles are being ground down and tumbled into pea-sized gravel. The glass gravel can be used on walkways, flower beds, and in fire pits. There is an attractive walkway located in downtown Washington DC that is composed of blue and white glass gravel. It is safe to walk on, even barefooted, and it is very durable.

Fortunately, there are now many uses for waste tires. Once the steel threads are removed, the tires can be chipped up into mulch for playground underlayment or for flower beds. Whole tires can be bolted together, tread to tread, and placed along stream banks for erosion control.

An amphitheater can be constructed from whole tires tied together, filled with gravel, and covered with a geo-textile, topsoil, and sod. The State of Pennsylvania Department of Transportation was first to use thousands of junk tires for erosion control along highways. They were cantilevered, secured in place, filled with rock and some soil, and then hydro-seeded.

By including recyclables in the landscape, as part of their designs, landscape architects are major contributors to making the world a better place for us to live, work and play.

Based in Atlanta, Olivia Munoz Mickalonis is a service connected disabled veteran, a landscape architect and an expert at using recyclables in the landscape designs she creates. To contact Olivia, simply use our ASK THE EXPERT box at the end of this page.

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