Economic Development

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More than 9 million tons of C&D waste went to Michigan landfills in 2016, of which an estimated 90% is generated by demolition activities. The wasteful and expensive practice of structural abandonment and subsequent demolition could, however, serve as a basis for a deconstruction economy that collects and repurposes these materials. The MSU Center for Community and Economic Development (CCED), in partnership with the West Michigan Shoreline Regional Development Commission (WMSRDC), completed a study of the feasibility of establishing a deconstruction-based economic sector in Muskegon County, MI that could collect and repurpose the demolition waste being created by more than 250,000 abandoned structures in the Great Lakes region. Currently, demolition of these abandoned structures is funded primarily by federal, state, and local taxpayers.

Structural abandonment and blight plagues many Midwest communities, places economic hardships on already distressed areas, and subjects residents to other significant health and safety hazards. By adopting policies that encourage reuse and facilitate deconstruction over demolition, public policy leaders can help end the practice of private property abandonment that has burdened communities for decades. For the Muskegon community, the concept of deconstruction is a theoretical silver bullet that addresses economic, social, and environmental priorities through increased utilization of the Port of Muskegon, job growth, blight elimination, and reduced landfill contributions.

Among the key findings of the study are:

  1. Local ordinances can be effectively used by local governments to increase the use of recycled C&D materials and deconstruction practices over demolition. Mandatory reuse and recycling rates in new construction assist in diverting materials from landfills.
  2. The process of deconstruction requires more labor than demolition, therefore a deconstruction-based economy would create more jobs than current demolition work.
  3. Truck transportation of structural debris and repurposed materials was found to be the most feasible for a variety of reasons, including cost and logistics. Container shipping on the Great Lakes was also explored, but was found to be a method requiring further development in order to become feasible.

The study was funded by a technical assistance award by the U.S. Department of Commerce, Economic Development Administration (EDA), with matching contributions from Muskegon County and Michigan State University.