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Residual Waste Management: From Disposal to Resource

Match-making business by-products with potential users can be a profitable sustainable strategy for all involved.

August 2012
Fishing for Energy is a partnership between Covanta Energy Corp., the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF), the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program, and Schnitzer Steel Industries, Inc. The partnership was established in 2008 to reduce the financial burden imposed on commercial fishermen when disposing of old, derelict, or unusable fishing gear, and thereby reduce the amount of gear that ends up in U.S. coastal waters. Gear collected from commercial fisherman is stripped of metals for recycling by Schnitzer Steel and processed into clean energy at a Covanta Energy-from-Waste facility. Before such a community program ever existed, their gear would have wound up in the ocean as trash. Now it is converted into a usable form for someone else's benefit.

Such programs are emerging and finding their way into businesses communities around the country as a win-win proposition, operating under the age-old premise and adage that one person's trash may be another person's treasure.

Educating Business Leaders
Consider the case of Sustainable Ohio. This is a new nonprofit organization formed to promote and educate Ohio business leaders on sustainable business practices and dedicated to the concept of beneficial residuals management.

"We operate under the industrial ecology concept of Waste = Food = Value = Profit," says Michael Long, Secretary-Treasurer of Sustainable Ohio, and Network Leader of Ohio By-Product Synergy Network, which matches undervalued waste or by-product streams with potential users. "By business collaborating on the issues of turning their waste to value, it is possible not only for a single company but pairs or an entire network of companies to benefit greatly. When this happens the city, county, or region benefits incrementally. The more business practicing by-product synergy and implementing projects will lead to greater regional value."

Electronics recycling is another great example of how some companies can utilize IT assets disposed of by a company of greater means. "By properly handling IT asset disposition," says Arman Sadeghi, the founder of All Green Electronics Recycling, "three different parties can be winners - the company, the recycler, and the smaller company or less fortunate individuals who purchase the equipment at a reduced rate."

Sustainability Matchmakers
"Chambers and economic development authorities can be sustainability matchmakers if they are cognizant of what resources are available and what possibilities exist," says Dr. R. Paul Williamson, founder and CEO of the nonprofit Sustainable Systems of Colorado. "This can be a tall order for organizations that are comprised of community members who have to be very much focused on their own endeavors and may not have the inclination, ability, or time to learn about other genres. One economic authority that I worked with in Virginia found that a new tenant in its industrial park was going to have a great amount of wasted heat generated as a result of its production process. Viewing this as an opportunity, the authority successfully set out and found another complementary company that could use that excess heat in its production [process]."

A simple collaborative effort of this type offered so many benefits by simply acting collectively with different stakeholders in the business community, explains Williamson. " It saved cooling expenses, increased productivity, reduced operating costs, facilitated additional job creation, and benefited the overall working and living environment."

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