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Near Zero Waste
Jamais Cascio, 11 Aug 05

It's a simple statement: waste=inefficiency=higher cost=lower profit. But until recently, many industries ended up throwing away thousands of tons of waste from production every year, filling landfills and all too often leaching toxic materials into the ground. But product manufacturers are beginning to see the value of reducing, reusing and recycling waste materials, with occasionally dramatic results.

Wired News profiles numerous companies that have taken active measures to reduce the amount of waste going to landfills. Many of the companies report reuse and recycling rates of 80-90 percent; in some cases, such as the Subaru factory in Lafayette, Indiana, efforts have led to effectively zero waste output, as nearly all leftover materials can be reused, and the small fraction that cannot is in turn used in an incinerator for electricity generation. But the most interesting example is the Georgia carpet manufacturer that found that ground up carpet pieces make a good backing for new carpets, and started a recycling program to take advantage of material that would otherwise have gone to landfill (the spokesperson for the company claims that carpet makes up a significant part of industrial trash in landfills).

This is a good indicator of the value of the high-efficiency mindset: waste goes from being not worth the trouble to care about to being not worth the trouble to make in the first place.

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The same carpet manufacturer featured in The Corporation?

Posted by: Caleb on 11 Aug 05

I'm not sure, Caleb. The carpet manufacturer is named in the Wired piece, but I haven't seen The Corporation (I know, I know, I should...).

Posted by: Jamais Cascio on 11 Aug 05

The Carpet company in "The Corporation" would be Ray Anderson, the chairman of Interface, Inc.

...Not the same company mentioned in the Wired article.

/tips hat


Posted by: Nato Welch on 11 Aug 05

The wired article mentions Collins and Aikman, another carpet company. The carpet industry (one of the few textiles industries still maintaining a foothold in the US) is actually very competitive and a source of a lot of waste reduction/waste reuse activities in the past several years (see Interface's QWEST program to reduce waste; their attempted Evergreen Services Agreement to lease carpets rather than sell them, which unfortunately seems to have been a little before its time; and Shaw Carpet's Ecoworx carpet, again from recycled content (and PVC-free).

Given the prices of virgin plastic resin are high (and likely to get higher), and the huge amount of pounds of plastic in carpet heading to the landfill currently, any effort to recapture the waste -- particularly in a relatively low-margin business -- is low-hanging fruit ripe for the picking.

Chris Page

Posted by: Chris Page on 12 Aug 05



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