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By Brooke Farrell, co-founder and CMO RecycleMatch
In the process of starting and building RecycleMatch, the first online B2B marketplace for business recycling and zero waste, we have done our research. We have researched every aspect of waste, recycling and today’s business climate around the concept of sustainability. This white paper includes some basic concepts and solid research sources, all of which are intended to help business leaders see the hidden opportunities tucked away in our dumpsters and landfills.
Myth #1: Waste is natural.
Wrong. Waste is not a concept that exists in nature. The ecosystem is closed loop, meaning that one organism’s waste becomes another’s food or energy source. Think about how the bugs decompose carcasses or dung and fallen leaves fertilize the soil. (If you want a good resource on this concept and its application in other systems thinking, read Cradle to Cradle by William McDonough). In today’s post-industrial business ecosystem, waste has become such an accepted practice of doing business that we are not realizing the value of the resources that are leaving our business ecosystem. Stop to consider what happens to the waste generated by your company.
Myth #2: Recycling is a residential issue. These numbers can’t be real!
Based on the latest EPA data, for every one pound of trash discarded from the goods and products we use at home, there are over 60 pounds generated in the manufacture and commerce of those goods. That’s a simplified and likely underestimated version, considering that our many of the goods Americans consume come from supply chains overseas. But the facts are that business generates a significant volume of waste materials. Companies in the US dispose of 7.6 billion tons of industrial waste each year. Industrial waste is made up of a wide variety of nonhazardous materials that result from the production of goods and products. The total amount of MSW in the US each year is 251 million tons. Of that MSW, business actually represents an estimated 45% of that figure too.
251 Million Tons MSW 7.6 Billion Tons Industrial Waste
Myth #3: Corporations, profits, and the environment are at odds
Many people less engaged in sustainable business practices are often surprised to learn that corporations like Wal-Mart, GM, Nike, IBM and others have actually led the way in sustainable business practices. And, not surprisingly, they are doing it for bottom line reasons. When we first researched the idea of RecycleMatch, we discovered that IBM had made an amazing match, resulting in a net $3 Million improvement. Instead of paying $1.5 million to put materials into a landfill, they found a way to sell those “waste” materials for $1.5 million. That was an early signal that RecycleMatch had found it’s market niche. Read more about IBM’s case study at http://zerowasteblog. recyclematch.com/ibm-pioneers-process-to-turn-waste-intosolar-energy Another signal of the dramatic change in the industry was Wal-Mart’s announcement that the organization, its 8,400 stores and 100,000+ suppliers were aiming to achieve zero waste by 2025. Wal-Mart has the unique scale to see how small changes can make a big impact. For example, by switching to Fair Trade Certified bananas in the Sam’s Club stores only, they negated the need to purchase and use 875,000 gallons of herbicides. By eliminating automatic printing of routine retail reports, they saved $20 million in printing costs. Any time a supplier found a way to reduce packaging, total cost / value improvements were seen in the packaging costs as well as transportation costs and shelf space optimization. Multiply that times 100,000 suppliers in the supply chain and you’ll realize why they are committed to zero waste by 2025. More at http://walmartstores.com/Sustainability/ Mike Robinson, GM vice president of Environment, Energy and Safety, highlights recycling as part of the strong business case for sustainability efforts at GM. “GM has generated more than $2.5 billion in revenue since 2007 through its various recycling activities” said Robinson. That’s on top of the value achieved when GM reuses and repurposes materials within their own operations. GM announced this year that 52% of their world-wide facilities are landfill free, and they aim to grow that figure continuously. Learn more at http://media.gm.com/content/media/us/en/news/news_detail. brand_gm.html/content/Pages/news/us/en/2010/Dec/1213_ landfill Probably the most transparent and interesting of the corporate leaders is Nike. Not only have they established a consumer-take-back program to recycle shoes, turning them into sport-courts, but they also are very forthcoming with the business reasons for their
sustainability actions. Their executives publically explain that if they were to continue to meet earnings and growth predicated on a business-as-usual industry standard model, they would literally require more natural resources than the earth has within our lifetimes. Nike exec Lorie Vogle notes that the production of one t-shirt currently requires over 700 gallons of water. That’s the kind of business driven information that is driving them to design more sustainable materials to fuel growth well into the future. Read more at http://blogs.reuters.com/adampasick/2009/10/24/nike-the-albatross-and-sustainable-design/
Myth #4: Carbon trumps waste as an environmental issue
Whether your environmental focus is on carbon, energy, water or other natural resources, you should care about waste. Waste is inextricably connected to all of these pressing environmental concerns. For example, aluminum is 100% recyclable without losing any of its virgin characteristics. Recycling the material requires only 5% of the energy and 5% of the carbon needed to produce new virgin aluminum from bauxite. Reusing the existing resource negates the need for open cut mining to extract the ore, a practice that causes lasting damage to land. Read more at http://www.benefits-of-recycling.com/recyclealuminum.html Not all impact of waste is as easy to calculate or has the same dramatic benefits as aluminum. A detailed EPA study from 2007 (http://www.epa.gov/wastes/nonhaz/municipal/ pubs/06benefits.pdf) estimates that the 32% of MSW (municipal solid waste, the tiny slice in the chart above) recycled today saves an equivalent amount of C02 as taking 39.4 million cars off the road. That’s about 15.5% of all the cars in the US. But that’s just the small percent of waste that is recycled from households, office lunch rooms and other non-manufacturing business. It does not apply to the 7.6 billion in industrially generated waste. We recognize that the MSW calculation wouldn’t apply uniformly to all materials generated by business and industrial sources. Some would have more impact while others would have less impact. But if the average impact was the same, the impact resulting from industrial waste in the US each year would be equivalent to 35.6 billion cars on the road, around 43 times more cars than exist in the world today. More at http:// en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Automobile. Even if that calculation is only directionally helpful, it’s mindblowing to consider the carbon impact hidden in our dumpsters. To get at more exact estimates for the impact associated with your company’s waste or waste reduction efforts, there are an increasing number consultants and experts available to work with individual corporations and supply chains. RecycleMatch has relationships with a number of these organizations and would be glad to make introductions since this is not the kind of work we do as an online marketplace.
Myth #5: Some things should be thrown away.
Sure. There are things that we don’t yet know what to do with. But there really is no “away”. Designating that a material will be held in a landfill is certainly a reasonable and sometimes required plan despite the ongoing risks. It’s important for businesses to stay open to new ideas and new solutions. One way to do this is to post available material streams, even those that are being hauled to the landfill today, on RecycleMatch. There is no cost to post the materials, and having the information available gives more opportunities for innovation to occur. For example, RecycleMatch customer Nishikawa Standard, was generating 75 tons per month of waste from weather stripping that was going to the landfill each month. After being told it could not be recycled because of it’s unique construction, they posted it on RecycleMatch, a no-charge step that increases awareness of the available material while protecting the company’s identity and interests. A US recycler requested samples, did some R&D, and determined that he could retool his equipment to recycle the material. Over a three year period, this solution is expected to yield an estimated $1.48 million in previously hidden value. If Nishikawa Standard had taken the designation of “not recyclable” as the final answer, the value of these materials would still be trapped in the landfill.
Myth #6: Educated business people don’t deal with trash
As we set out to build RecycleMatch, we came across more than a few people who cringed at the notion of dealing with garbage. Somehow their expectation was that a higher education meant a free ride from dealing with such unsavory tasks. But many years of avoiding the issue has created a huge opportunity in the things we consider “waste”. It has been estimated that the materials that are generated by companies in the US each year are worth an estimated $20 billion dollars. Those same materials cost companies $22 billion dollars just to put into landfills. In addition to the corporations noted above, RecycleMatch is working with brilliant people from across the business ecosystem, all of whom are using waste as a resource to unlock this $42 billion business opportunity. At RecycleMatch, we are glad to see companies taking a more active role in managing their waste as a resource.
Sustainability initiatives like zero waste to landfill and material recycling are gaining speed and urgency in your enterprise. Your business has embraced its responsibility to minimize the material waste it returns to the environment. Now, leading companies are using RecycleMatch Enterprise to transform these programs into engines for growing shareholder value. RecycleMatch Enterprise includes the following features and capabilities: Enterprise Materials Management: Establish a system of record to manage, minimize and monetize all waste byproducts and material streams across distributed locations Private-label Marketplace: Use your own invitation-only marketplace to effectively manage online auctions, sealed bid sales transactions, and traditional RFP processes Buyer Network: Broaden your reach and zero waste options by tapping thousands of certified buyers and solution providers on the RecycleMatch Buyer Network Pricing Repository: Receive fair market value for our waste and recyclables, by accessing market pricing data for a wide variety of material streams Performance Dashboard: Easily track waste diversion progress and financial performance across your enterprise, to maximize the impact of your sustainability efforts Best Practices and Materials Wiki: Optimize zero waste and recycling processes - and the value of materials before they are sold – with targeted materials data and zero waste best practices. To request more information or schedule a demo, please contact RecycleMatch at 713-581-0466 or email@example.com.
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