Group turns trash into treasure

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Articles - October 2010
Tuesday, September 28, 2010

 

ResourceFull Use
ResourceFull Use holds "speed dating" meetings with business leaders to talk about how companies can recycle their waste. // PHOTO COURTESY OF ZERO WASTE ALLIANCE

A group of Portland-area business strategists are encouraging companies to dump their waste on others as a way to save money.

ResourceFull Use, founded in 2007, is a pilot resource exchange project that looks for ways to make one business’ trash another business’ gain instead of disposing of it at financial and environmental cost. Metro estimates more than 575,000 tons of waste are produced annually by Metro-area businesses.

The idea of resource exchanging in the Northwest isn’t new. Imex.com, based in Washington, is a sort of Craigslist for businesses searching for materials that would otherwise go to the dump. But “passive exchanging does not work as well as active exchanges,” says Dorothy Atwood, co-founder of ResourceFull Use and an employee of the Zero Waste Alliance. She values a more active approach, like her group organizes.

“It’s like speed dating,” Atwood says of ResourceFull Use’s workshops that bring together area business leaders. “You talk to one person for one minute and then switch. In 20 minutes you’ve talked to 20 people.”

Past workshops in the Portland area have led to ripped hotel sheets turned into prison linens and airport runway paint transferred to an auto body shop for use in a parking lot. A similar program in Seattle  has led to over $390,000 in annual savings for participating businesses and 3,663 tons of material diverted annually.

But there are obstacles. ResourceFull currently has a limited scope. “You have to have critical mass and you need a way to track it to make it really work,” Atwood says. Atwood hopes to increase the number of these workshops in the future to get out the word that there is value in what businesses are tossing.

PETER BELAND
 

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