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Trash to Treasure: Creating a platform to enable circular economy for materials in commercial and industrial processes

The Goal: Using end-of-life materials and by-products as raw materials for complementary, but unrelated resource transformation processes.

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Trash to Treasure (T2T) Platform: Circular Economy for Industrial and Commercial Materials. 

The Idea:  Create an on-line information-sharing platform for “closing the loop” on open-ended resource transformation processes.  Users of materials can list the materials they need for their process, while producers of by-products and other wastestreams can list the contents of their waste stream.  The areas of overlap are identified and prioritized based on geographic parameters and/or logistical constraints.  The scope includes any inputs needed or wastes produced in industrial and commercial operations.  For example, a restaurant may list its organic wastes from kitchen operations, which could be an attractive feed source for a local pig farmer.  The platform would match up nearby operations where one entity’s waste is another entity’s valued raw material.    


The Goal:  Using end-of-life materials and by-products as the raw materials for complementary, but unrelated processes within a reasonable geographic radius to enable materials sharing.  The producer (of the waste) saves on disposal costs, and the user (of the “waste” as raw material) saves on materials procurement costs.


Environmental Benefit:  By avoiding unnecessary disposal of materials, GHG emissions from decomposition of waste in are reduced; and by beneficially reusing these materials, the energy and material inputs to create already-existing raw materials are avoided.


Unintended Consequence to be Managed:  The concept of “closing the loop” through identification of off-site complementary operations does imply some amount of energy to be used for materials transportation; however, absent this mechanism, transportation would be needed to procure new raw materials from a different source.  Accordingly, impact from transportation of the reused materials can be considered a replacement for the transportation of new materials, provided this is managed at a reasonable scale in terms of distance and logistical efficiency (e.g. compare relative revenue ton-miles of materials obtained through the T2T platform with those procured from a different supplier).  In either case, transportation should be optimized for efficiency to minimize environmental and financial impact.

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Photo of Stephanie Glazer

Here is a timely webinar hosted by GreenBiz: Achieving a Circular Economy: How the Private Sector is Re-imagining the Future of Business, on November 17, 2015 at 1pm (ET).
Register here: https://www.greenbiz.com/webcast/achieving-circular-economy-how-private-sector-re-imagining-future-business

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