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Home > Garbage and Recycling > Value Of Waste  

Garbage and Recycling: Value Of Waste

All waste has value. This discussion is designed to help you find the value in your waste. Here, we define "value" as time, money or energy gained.


It's very simple. Waste takes time, money and energy to move and process. Would it surprise you if we told you that there is a market for most of what you throw away? This can mean real money to you.
     We believe, spending a few short hours investigating your waste could pay off as $1,000's over the years.

leafStep 1: Evaluate.
We suggest you monitor all wastes leaving your home (business). Do this for solid, liquid and airborne wastes. Identify the largest sources of waste. You do not have to be highly accurate. This should only take a few minutes a week for a few weeks. For many businesses, the majority of their solid waste is corrugated cardboard.

leafStep 2: Get informed.
Armed with the knowledge of what you throw away, you can now look at alternatives to sending it to the landfill. We suggest you begin by looking at ways to find value in the biggest waste type. A quick call to your waste disposal company may be your best start. This value may be simply having someone pick it up for free (instead of paying to have it hauled off). Local recyclers and scrap dealers pay for materials so you should call them as well. You may find that your business or home generates enough to actually sell this waste.

leafStep 3: Start simple.
After determining which waste has the highest value, make sure this part of the waste stream gets diverted from the garbage. For most households, the highest value is aluminum cans but this valuable waste can come from many unlikely places (more on that later). You'll quickly see the payoff that a small effort can give and move on to step 4.

leafStep 4: Recover more value.
Now that you are successfully recovering value from part of your waste stream, consider removing other wastes from that stream to get additional value. You may have to make a few more calls and spend a couple of hours but the recovery of value may be well worth it.
Places to look:
Sometimes, just looking in the yellow pages under "Recycle" or "garbage" or even under "scrap" is a good start. Check out are "Recycling Facilities" section for ways to find local alternatives to the landfill.

Wholesale Pricing:
To get an idea of prices for bulk recyclables you can check RecyleinmeNote: prices at your local recycler could be significantly lower.
Common wastes that have value:
  • Aluminum
  • Corrugated Cardboard
  • Computer (non-mixed) Paper
  • Scrap Iron
  • Newspaper
There are many other very common wastes that recyclers pay for (or at least take for free). A quick call to your recycler or scrap dealer can give some answers.

Unexpected wastes that have value: Here, you are limited only by your imagination. There are many stories out there of people doing things to create value from their wastes. Here are a few.
    A car dealership found that they were throwing away a lot of car mats. They decided to sell them and made $$$.
     A chemical company had a product whose waste created a foul smell and was toxic. They decided to create a second product that used the first products waste as a raw material. Made $$$$.
    Many sewer bills are based on your water consumption. Installing water conserving toilets, sinks and showers can lower sewer bills. Save $$.
     The point is, when we start to look at our waste as an asset instead of a liability we begin to find ways to have it pay off. Time consuming? Maybe not, these are the kinds of things that can be done now and again, with some smart pre-planning.

Common misconception.
Paying to recycle adds cost. Although some garbage companies charge to pick up recyclables at your location, you could still save money with this service if it allows you to use fewer or smaller waste containers.  Therefore, even if you pay to recycle, the net cost of your garbage service may be much lower.

Immeasurable value:
There is nothing like the feeling of diverting waste from the landfill and getting paid to do it. You and your community can take pride in making markets where none have existed before. Who knows, the actions you take may even create some jobs. 

Environmental Effects of Recycling
Material Energy Saving Air Pollution Saving
Aluminum 95% 95%
Cardboard 24% -
Glass 5-30% 20%
Plastic 70% -
Paper 40% 73%
    Figures from the June 7, 2007 issue of The Economist.


Items in our "Waste and Recycling" section.

  • Recycle Centers:
    Home Recycling ________________
  • Composters:
    Home Recycling ________________
  • Vermicomposters:
    Home Recycling ________________
  • Garbage Bags:
    Home Recycling ________________
  • Recycle Kits:
    Home Recycling ________________




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