Could Garbage Be America's #1 Resource?

landfill and bulldozer photo
Garbage is America's #1 export and possibly the biggest raw material source we have. But what is waste? And why do we make it?

In nature, waste does not exist - if it did we would not be here today since the creation of a material that another life form cannot use is not sustainable and would lead to the destruction of our eco-system. One way to look at waste is that it is a commodity with negative value. That is, it's a commodity that we are willing to pay to get rid of. It is a liability that has to be transported quickly and efficiently to a landfill.

Waste is also a new idea - probably no more than 100 years old. It is an idea that came about with the birth of complex polymers and consumerism (brought on by the fad for disposable products in the 1950s). If necessity breeds innovation, then we are long overdue to find innovative ways to solve the waste issue, which is exactly what TerraCycle (which I started) hopes to do.

But is it really all that bad? What if we start finding value in waste? I have dedicated the past six years to that very task, in building TerraCycle, and have found that if looked at in the right perspective there is no such thing as waste and that using waste to make products leads to an economic structure where you start with negative raw material costs.

By creating a successful business model from waste, I hope to shift the paradigm of this quickly mounting eco-issue. If TerraCycle can succeed and be profitable building products and packaging entirely from waste, surely imitators will come along. If enough businesses begin to use this undervalued material the demand for garbage will skyrocket. As we all know, when demand goes up then supply goes down, which in the case of garbage, is a very good thing!

Through my posts on Treehugger (this being the first one), I will bring you ideas and stories on a weekly basis about how we can transform waste into highly profitable solutions and in the end eliminate the entire of waste!

Image from HP
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