Land Recycling – Transforming Risks into Opportunities

Land recycling, otherwise known as brownfield redevelopment, protects green space and revitalizes our local economies.

As an individual, recycling is one of the most effective ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Recycling consumer goods protects natural resources by preventing further extraction of resources and preventing pollution by closing the waste cycle. The impacts from recycling are so profound it has become one of the hallmarks of urban renewal through brownfield redevelopment, also known as land recycling – the reuse of abandoned, underused properties. Brownfield redevelopment not only reduces our carbon footprint, it reduces our actual footprint on the landscape. Restoring underutilized properties taps into existing infrastructure, sparing green spaces from development and much more.

The EPA defines brownfields as real property, in which the expansion, redevelopment or reuse of may be complicated by the presence or potential presence of a hazardous substance, pollutant, or contaminant. Abandoned properties are not always contaminated, but they do lend themselves to a host of issues depending on how long they sat idle. A brownfield often elicits concerns over contaminated soil or a hazardous groundwater plume migrating beneath our communities. These blighted properties often hold entire areas back from the benefits of economic development. Also, depending on the age of the building, asbestos containing materials or lead-based paint are common hazards associated with buildings that must be mitigated during the redevelopment process.

In the latter half of the 20th Century, some cities began to shrink as residents fled to the suburbs leaving their properties to decay in their wake. Many cities have countered this problem through implementing land recycling programs, while others are still navigating through layers of bureaucracy. Unfortunately, many of the areas that have not recovered are located in the poorest communities requiring help from outside investors and supporters. Philadelphia alone has over 40,000 abandoned properties that place significant burden on the city. Not only are many of these properties eyesores, they serve as a breeding ground for crime, rob the City of taxes and decrease the value of neighboring properties. Philadelphia is in the midst of implementing a land back program to help restore these properties and revive their economy. A few Pennsylvania cities have experienced the same losses when factories shut down in the seventies and eighties that have found immense success in land recycling programs. The York County Economic Alliance and the Lehigh Valley Land Recycling Initiative have developed land recycling programs that have acted as catalyst for economic and urban renewal. These programs have also served as nationwide models.

Land recycling reverses or minimizes many of the environmental impacts that have occurred because of sprawl, creating a balance between the natural and built environments. Prime farmland and open spaces are saved as development moves back to city centers, reviving the local economic tax base. Land recycling coupled with compact, sustainable development reduces stormwater runoff allowing streams and sensitive wetlands to return to their natural states by directing development to urban areas and implementing sound stormwater management practices. Redevelopment provides housing and jobs to areas where commuters are able to rely on public transportation or walkable communities— further reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions

Land recycling, by its very nature embodies sustainability as it meets the needs of the current community, creating jobs, providing homes and protecting the health of the community ensuring a better environment for future generations. It maximizes the use of existing infrastructure, strengthening the local economy by alleviating economic pressure from municipalities who are already in a bind due to a backlog of infrastructure improvement projects. At the end of the day, land recycling helps to reduce your community’s carbon footprint.

Land recycling is at the root of Element’s core purpose. The services we provide revolve around restoring the built and natural environment through remediation and mitigation of hazardous substances detected in the environment. Our Indoor Air Quality (IAQ) services have allowed many dilapidated buildings to be recycled and brought back into productive use. Element’s staff of environmental experts has successfully managed numerous Land Recycling projects under Pennsylvania’s Act 2 program, helping clients maximize site utilization on Brownfield redevelopment projects with environmental limitations. Element thrives on transforming environmental risks into opportunities by employing sound land recycling methods on all of our projects. Our understanding of Pennsylvania’s Land Recycling Program allows us to implement cost effective remediation strategies that result in successful projects for our clients.

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