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    Revolution Recovery: Philly’s Professional Dumpster Divers

    Revolution Recovery PhiladelphiaEver wonder what happens in Revolution Recovery? Our guest writer Kelly Altrichter recently toured the facility and shared her experience so we could experience it firsthand.

    What is Revolution Recovery?

    Revolution Recovery began when Avi Golen and Jon Wybar had the idea to divert construction material straight out of the landfill in 2004.  Although they dug through construction waste to determine an outlet for all the various materials, Revolution Recovery has grown to two locations and 80 employees.

    Revolution Recovery – DVGBC Tour

    We decided to find out more about Revolution Recovery’s journey on a Saturday off the banks of the Delaware in Northeast Philly. Along with 10 sustainability adventurers from the DVGBC Emerging Professionals Committee and Philadelphia U., we toured Revolution Recovery led by Fern Gookin (Director of Sustainability – Revolution Recovery, Advisor – EP Committee and Board Director – DVGBC Chapter).

    Daily Monday through Saturday, trucks roll in and dump about 700 tons of debris at Revolution Recovery’s two locations. Each truck proceeds to the dumping yard where materials are presorted and pushed into mountainous piles of wood, plastic, metal etc. Materials make their way onto a giant conveyor belt from the ground to the second floor of the adjacent warehouse.

    As the material travels up the conveyor, small pieces are screened out if too difficult to sort, and are misted to keep down dust.  Sorters are responsible for picking out certain materials and dropping them into one of the 20 bins below. Leftover materials continue onto a series of shredders, magnets, screens and density separators to recover as much material as possible. At the end of the line, a loading dock houses the sorted material, compressed into large rectangular bundles, ready to be shipped out to the highest bidder.

    About 80% of materials are salvaged and sold to manufacturers around the world, becoming brand “new” products.  Trucks are weighed and billed per ton; a percentage are tracked for specific projects to earn LEED points. The remaining 20% of material proceeds onward to a landfill or waste-to-energy facility. Revolution Recovery is currently working to find outlets for those materials to get as close to zero waste as possible.

    Revolution Recovery does sell a few items, such as carpet tile, retail by the skid. Plus, they practice what they preach: they’ve furnished their company offices and reception area with accessories from debris and their employees can take home materials for personal projects.  The reception chairs looked brand new!

    One of the artists in residence is currently using MRI scans she found in the debris to create a navigational star chart, complete with night sky and stars of varying degrees of brightness.  She expressed her gratitude for having access to tools, space and materials to create her art.

    Thanks to Revolution Recovery for all they do and allowing us to see their impressive operation!

    Want to join one of our upcoming tours? The DVGBC Emerging Professionals Committee is organizing a tour of Yards Brewery on Saturday, May 31st from 11:45am – 2:00pm.  Check our Facebook group for further updates.


    Guest writer Kelly Altrichter is an interior designer, living in historic Germantown inspired to preserve old buildings while improving their efficiency and sustainability, loves turning old things into new things, and camping.


    Photo: Victoria Checchia

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