An estimated 12,000 to 15,000 "functionally obsolete" mobile homes dot the Vermont landscape, most of them built before federal construction standards were established in 1976. Weighing an average of eight tons apiece, these aging mobile homes represent up to 120,000 tons of waste needing proper management. Metal recycling facilities, however, typically will not accept them, and landfills also don't want mobile homes because of their bulkiness and low density.
A study completed by the Agency of Natural Resources, the town of Bristol, and the Manufactured Housing Institute in 2000 indicated that substantial portions of damaged or destroyed mobile homes can be salvaged or recycled. Following the June 1998 flood of the New Haven River that destroyed Palmer's Trailer Court in Bristol, the three partners launched a study to determine the viability of dismantling and recycling materials from several of the damage homes. Five mobile homes were brought to the Bristol landfill, and a contractor disassembled the homes in a controlled manner. Components of each mobile home were segregated into various categories, and materials of each category were documented and weighed. Depending on the material, each component was then recycled, salvaged, or brought to a landfill.
The study determined that between 20 and 37 percent of damaged mobile homes, by weight, can be salvaged for reuse or recycled. Each mobile home in the study required between 79 and 97 person-hours to dismantle, at an average cost of $775 per unit.
Mobile home deconstruction at this time is not a moneymaker, but neither is it terribly expensive. Widespread salvaging of mobile homes would enhance blighted areas, conserve natural resources, preserve landfill space, and provide jobs and economic opportunity.