Recycling is big business now, and when you can offer more to your customers, you can build your customer base with like-minded clients who appreciate the knowledge you bring to the table. Here are some materials that are either currently available or will be available in the upcoming year that can help you predict the trends and be prepared:  

From plastic to building materials. Those plastic grocery bags that seem to be everywhere now can be recycled with wood pulp to form composite lumber. The 50/50 plastic/wood combination means that the material is better equipped to handle moisture and therefore rot. Surprisingly, it’s less toxic than treated lumber and can last longer.

Plastic bags are also being turned into blocks through a heat-form mold. Although the formed blocks are similar in size to the tried and true cinder block, they’re not designed to bear heavy loads. Instead, they can be used to form lightweight walls to define outdoor rooms or divide indoor living spaces.

Waste plastic is another term for plastic that hasn’t been recycled and otherwise ends up in a landfill. There is a new process that breaks this type of plastic down and allows it to be combined with asphalt (replacing sand and gravel), called plasphault. The combination has proven to be more weather resistant and longer lasting than asphalt.

From paper to planks and insulation. Paper comes from wood, but did you know there’s a process that can turn it back into a sturdy and useful building material? Scientists in Norway created a way to roll ground up paper products with non-toxic glue to create a solid, fire-retardant roll. The hardened rolls are then chopped into planks that can be used interchangeably with traditional wood planks.

Paper fibers can also be used to create cellulose insulation, which is a better heat loss barrier than more traditional fiberglass sheets.  Up to 85% of cellulose is recycled material (compared to 40% for fiberglass) and it can be blown in for easy installation with minimal health-related concerns afterwards.

From demolition to aggregate. Most builders know that with large-scale demolition comes recycled aggregate, but they may not be aware that they can use it for more than making new concrete. Crushed aggregate can be used as filler between stepping stones for outdoor walkways, part of a seawall to prevent erosion from waterfront properties, and for retaining walls and garden borders. It can even be mixed in with soil for better water drainage around foundations and the like. Crushed aggregate is economical, helps keep material out of landfills and can look great for years to come.

The more you know about new material uses, the more equipped you’ll be for your customers. And they’ll appreciate the wealth of knowledge you bring.