© 2024 Milwaukee Public Media is a service of UW-Milwaukee's College of Letters & Science
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

More Competition for Milwaukee's Salvaged Treasures & Building Materials

WasteCapResource Solutionshas been around for 15 years.

Salvaged beams and art deco windows are just part of its vision to transform waste into resources. WasteCap leaves no brick unturned.

Credit S Bence
Justin Dall'Osto helped funnel materials for reuse at airport's deconstruction/construction project.

Project Manager Justin Dall’Osto knows the facts. “U.S. landfills are made up 41 percent of construction demolition materials. Wisconsin is around 30 to 31 percent. So we’re a little a less but we’re doing our part to try make it even lower,” he says.

WUWM's Susan Bence met Dall’Osto at General Mitchell International Airport while the baggage claim renovation project was still churning. His goal was to help pull it off as sustainably as possible.

“One of the aspects is to make sure that you recycle on the project at least 75 percent,” Dall’Osto says.

We stroll down a row of giant dumpsters – labeled wood only and metal only.

Dall’Osto redirects all the leftovers. For instance, he made sure the 200 large glass blocks that workers removed get another life.

And he funneled all the wooden pallets left behind to a nonprofit called Milwaukee Working. “They come out and pick up these pallets and make them into new pallets and helps the contractor finding markets where they don’t have to pay for hauling,” Dall’Osto says.

With the airport project winding down, Dall'Osto can report that it surpassed its 75 percent diversion goal by more than 15 percent.

Credit S Bence

In its fervor to drive down waste, WasteCap is amassing mounds of salvage materials. So it opened a new warehouse this week, on 22nd and Michigan, and it’s already loaded.

Many items you find inside, such as stained glass windows and heating vents, come from ruined houses on the city’s foreclosure list.

WasteCap’s Alex Ogden says it assesses each property for harvestable treasures; many of the homes date back to the 1920s and '30s.

Credit S Bence

 A robin’s egg blue door. It looks as though it’s been plucked from a country cottage… “You could make it a cool garden gate door,” Ogden says.

No time for sentimentality. Ogden says as soon as it sells, other items are waiting in the wings to occupy floor space.

WasteCap’s big new warehouse may provide competition for ReStore.

It’s been in business in the Milwaukee area for about eight years, and is a fundraising arms for Habitat for Humanity. Marketing director Jake Brandt says ReStore’s volunteer team is holding its own on the deconstruction scene.

“We just wrapped up a project at Marquette University. We ended up salvaging over 7 tons of materials,” Brandt says.

They pulled out desks and cabinets and some surprising finds - including an old wooden boat.

Credit S Bence
Jake Brandt at Habitat for Humanity headquarters in Milwaukee.

Brandt says, “About $19,000 worth of product that we can sell in our ReStores and raise money for Habitat for Humanity.”

Perhaps maintaining your niche in the resale market can be measured by the story you can tell. Brandt says last year local ReStores sold enough recycled items to fund the building of 6 ½ homes.

“Back when I I started six years ago, we were raising enough to build about one home,” he adds.

For now, there’s plenty of raw material and seemingly no shortage of human desire to breathe new life into what – not long ago – would be swallowed up in landfill.

Susan is WUWM's environmental reporter.
Related Content