11 Recycled Building Materials Made From Trash

Updated: Jul. 11, 2023

Whether it's a pair of tattered jeans, a landfill-bound glass bottle or a bald tire, post-consumer waste is a massive problem. But more and more companies are taking out the trash...by upcycling it into new, durable, cost-effective building materials.

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Frost King “No Itch” Multi-Purpose Insulation

There’s no reason household cast-offs should be destined for the dump—plenty of nearby agencies are more than willing to give your old stuff a second life. Frost King “No Itch” Insulation is made from 100% recycled denim.

The natural, multi-purpose insulation can be used for insulation, cushioning and noise dampening. It’s nonirritating, so there’s no need for gloves, goggles or masks when installing—and it can be easily torn and ripped to fit in between joists and around pipes and ducts. Plus, it’s safe and eco-friendly because it’s made entirely of recyclable materials that are resistant to mold, mildew and fire.
Frost King’s “No Itch” Insulation, which has an R value of 4, is $13 for a 48-inch roll at Amazon.
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Milliken Carpet Tiles with Econyl

In the six years since its introduction, Econyl has been embraced by dozens of large and small carpet companies including Ege, Desso, Interface, Avondale Carpets and Tarkett. The innovative nylon yarn is produced in Slovenia from post-consumer waste materials such as fishing nets and textiles.

Aquafil, the company behind Econyl, uses a chemical process that “un-zips” nylon 6 molecules from landfill fodder and returns the molecules to their monomer state. The resulting organic compound, caprolactam, can then be turned into new nylon 6 polymers which are identical to the ones made from crude oil. The process can be repeated an infinite number of times with no loss in quality. South Carolina-based carpet company Milliken is one purveyor that has embraced Econyl. It offers eight collections made from the yarn—Clerkenwell is shown here.

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IceStone Countertops

IceStone mimics the look of terrazzo, a composite traditionally made with small pieces of marble or granite. Instead of mined stone, however, IceStone uses post-consumer glass from industrial recycling facilities. Each year, this 16-year-old Brooklyn-based company diverts about a million pounds of glass from the waste stream. They sort the glass by color, grind it into fine particles and combine it with Portland cement and non-toxic pigments. The resulting surface is both heat and scratch-resistant.

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Jelinek Cork Mosaic Flooring

The bark of a mature Quercus suber (aka cork oak) tree is so thick that wine corks can be punched out of it. That’s been the business of the Jelinek Cork Corp. since its founding in 1855. But, it wasn’t until this century that the company started reusing wine corks that were rejected by quality control at its Portugese production facility. These castoff corks are shipped to Savannah, Georgia where they are sliced into pieces and laid in a grid. Jelinek calls it “cork mosaic flooring.” Floors made from these cork tiles are dense, naturally hypoallergenic and impervious to surface moisture. Install this tile just like you would ceramic tile—glue then grout. Jelinek mosaic flooring costs $110 per pack of five tiles, enough to cover approximately 10 square feet.

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Ceilume Tiles

Ceilume’s thermoformed ceiling tiles are made of 100-percent recycled plastic manufacturing scrap. The Sonoma County, California-based company also recycles all of its own production waste and takes back scrap from customers, creating a closed-loop lifecycle. Ceilume tiles start at $60 per case at The Home Depot. Eco-chic has never looked so good!

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DeckTop Rubber Deck Tiles

Moreno Valley, California-based EMC makes interlocking tiles from 100 percent post-consumer waste tires. The resulting tiles are lightweight, slip-resistant, puncture-resistant and come in 17 colors. Have you heard about recycled tire concrete?

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Amazon Environmental Paint

Amazon Environmental recycles good-quality surplus paint and then processes it into recycled-content latex paint. It’s available in 20 shades for interior and exterior applications. Amazon also processes non-reusable paint into Processed Latex Pigment, an ingredient used in cement manufacturing. This Amazon has no connection with the bookseller-turned-behemoth retailer.

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Mega Green Drainage Pipe

Since 2012, Ohio-based Advanced Drainage Systems has been making its “Mega Green” high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe with up to 60 percent post-consumer recycled HDPE. In 2018, the company marked an impressive milestone: 1 billion pounds of plastic reprocessed into its “Mega Green” potable water pipes.

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Ecoasis Nex Roof Shingles

Malarkey Roofing Products, in South Gate, California, says it has diverted 104,167 end-of-life tires from landfills in its production of Ecoasis Nex Shingles. The shingles also include 3M Smog-Reducing Granules, a Time magazine Best Invention of 2018.

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Saturn Materials Masonry

Columbus, Mississippi-based Saturn Materials makes brick, veneer, pavers and structural blocks with alkali ash material, a fly ash-based cement. Fly ash is a problematic combustion waste material that has been the cause of environmental disasters and illegal dumping.

By mixing fly ash into its masonry, Saturn is adding strength and stability to their products and helping to solve an ongoing problem. The bricks are completely safe to use because a chemical reaction happens when the fly ash is mixed with the cement. Amazingly, the combination of the two ingredients produces calcium silicate hydrate—the same mineral that gives concrete its strength. Any other trace amounts of heavy metal become entrapped in the cement crystals. The material is so safe that some builders even use it for kitchen countertops. Learn about the different types of DIY home construction waste, how to dispose of it and ways to put less in the landfill.

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FilterPave Driveways

Higbee, Missouri-based FilterPave claims its product is twice as porous as asphalt, four times as porous as conventional pavers, it helps filter pollutants from stormwater and also prevents erosion. The material, made with tumbled pebbles of post-consumer recycled glass, is laid on a deep bed of gravel. The lifespan of the pavement is about the same as asphalt. A special topcoat prevents UV rays from breaking down the glue. The cost is $8 to $12 per square foot. Homeowners are encouraged to contact the company to find a recommended installer in their area.