NTCOG schools community on citizen collection and transfer stations

Zero Waste Texas Infrastructure

On Oct 24, the North Texas Council of Governments (NTCOG) gave a free course on Planning, Designing, and Funding Citizen Collection Stations and Transfer stations. We were attracted to the training because we have been pondering recycling, reuse, and composting infrastructure since Austin, Texas adopted a Zero Waste goal in 2008.

 

The training was put on by Scott and Seth of Burns McDonnell Consulting agency, and many cities were there in person or tuned in via web such as the city of Grapevine, Garland, and Bee Caves outside of Austin.  Unfortunately for local efforts, I did not come away with any strategy as it appears in typical government fashion they are stuck between citizen stations that are not allowed to have commercial components, and expensive transfer stations that are highly regulated.

I asked NTCOG, “How do we, the people, get anything done?”  Their answer: Zero waste efforts may fit more along the lines of a recycling center which have different requirements.  They did not tell me where to find those.   One option they did provide was the idea of a trailer going to different parts of the county and reducing illegal dumping in unincorporated areas. But the incorporated areas seems to have a foothold so that NTCOG is trying to get the local communities to do non-commercial operations instead of commercial ones.  It seems logical that the way to deal with this is to call waste “resources” instead, which might help the right thing to happen. Legally, we have to use the right language.

NTCOG training
As far as funding goes, they recommend the “New Market Tax Credit” for help.  We were told industrial bonds were the way to go and helped get that back on the table in Austin. But in Dallas, they haven’t been dusted of in 50 years according to Hammond Perot, an economic development expert with the City of Dallas.As far as our mission to develop the tech to make this economically and politically feasible, we were fascinated to hear that Scale house and Toll Booths are able to read radio frequency (RFID) tags on the trucks to create more efficiency which could someday expand to chipping commodities and tracking them cradle to grave on the blockchain. Along with crowdfunding, the blockchain allows for more alternative funding mechanisms not yet on Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) and NTCOG’s radar.

 

Here are the materials from the presentation for your reference and use:  Link

Here is a recording of the presentation:  Link

Trash to Cash

How to Sell Your Company's Waste

upcycled plastic bottle art

Artist building wall out plastic bottle discards (Image from cdn.designrulz.com)

For years, we have been talking about just how valuable your trash can be. In fact, we don’t believe there should be such a thing as “trash.” Discards or used resources, yes, but trash? No. Discards can almost always become assets when you design your systems appropriately. Instead of just talking about the theoretical value of your trash, though, we thought we would give you some concrete information you can use.

There are many ways – countless ways – to design your business, government or household to minimize discards, reuse resources or profit by selling used materials to another party that needs them. If you get creative, you can upcycle materials, making new products out of old parts. You can compost your food scraps and organics, making fertilizer for your own gardens or selling it to someone else. Or, you can coordinate with other entities, selling or exchanging the used pieces and parts that you’d otherwise just throw in the landfill or pay to recycle. In this article, we focus on the last option, showing you how you can benefit when you get rid of your “waste” in an environmentally responsible way.

zero waste companies selling waste

Recycled materials shipped to buyer (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

RECYCLERS THAT BUY A VARIETY OF MATERIALS:

  • RecycleMatch: RecycleMatch offers an online, international marketplace where you can sell the waste you would otherwise pay to dump in the landfill. If you have a large company with a consistent stream of waste materials, you may want to consider using RecycleMatch’s Enterprise Waste & Recycling software, a service platform which includes a white-labeled version of the marketplace technology as well as a back-end system to manage and track materials.
  • Recycle.net: Recycle.net offers multiple services to businesses around the world that need to get rid of materials. Their Recyclers Exchange is a subscription service where buyers and sellers of can make deals on a variety of used materials, including exotic metals, cars and car parts, computers and parts, scrap metal, iron and steel, precious metals, minerals, glass and fiber, plastics, wood, paper, scrap rubber and tires, textile scraps, liquids/oils and chemicals, and compost and food waste among other items. Recycle.net also manages ScrapIndex.com, a scrap commodity price information service and ROCs, a program designed to promote recycling with Recycling Offset Credits.
  • Terracycle: With Terracycle, your recycled materials can earn you a donation to a charity, nonprofit or school of your choice, or you can earn points which you can redeem for Terracycle products. TerraCycle works with facilities around the world to bring recycling solutions to large volumes of waste that are not currently being recycled, even those items that are normally difficult to recycle. In some cases, recycling your waste may be cheaper than sending it to either a landfill or an incinerator through Terracycle’s programs.
  • RENEW: If your business is in EPA Region 6 (Arkansas, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma or Louisiana), you can buy or sell a variety of used materials including chemicals, metals, glass, plastics, leather, textiles, solvents, paints, etc. through RENEW (Resource Exchange Network for Eliminating Waste).
Terracycle upscycles used items

Terracycle makes products from your discards. (Image from hearts.com)

RECYCLERS SPECIALIZING IN SPECIFIC MATERIALS:

Plastics

  • Green Ant Recycling: If you are located in the UK, Green Ant Recycling will pay you for a wide range of used plastics.

Dental Waste

  • Garfield Refining: If you are a dental professional, Garfield will buy your dental metals including gold, silver, platinum and palladium, or dental scraps including crowns and bridge work, dentures, inlays, clasps, fillings, gold teeth, grindings, polishings, bars, amalgam and other metal extractions.

Wine Bottles and Corks

  • Ebay: If you have a restaurant, bar or wine tasting operation, sell your bottles and corks on Ebay. You can make anywhere from about 50 cents to $5.00 per wine bottle, and crafters will buy your corks for around 10 cents each. (Of course, you can sell plenty of other used items on Ebay, as well!)

E-waste

If you want any additional information about how you can design your business to maximize efficiency while minimizing waste, our experts can help. We offer consultations that can help you with a wide range of efficiency issues, ranging from facility and energy updates to environmental solutions regarding your product ideas, supplies and discards. Contact kimbriel@adbongo.io for more information.

NOTE: We are not affiliated with any of the recyclers or exchanges listed below, and we do not vouch for their services. Please do your own research when deciding which one to use.

Need help?  Contact a Zero Waste Associate:


Businesses Attract Customers and Increase Profit Using Zero Waste Principles

Redesigning Companies for the New Resource Economy

zero waste business

Businesses are rethinking the value of trash

If you are like most business owners and managers, you are always struggling with a few basic issues: How can I increase my profit margins? How can I attract more customers? Are we staying ahead of or at least keeping up with the changing times? Any business that wants to stay relevant and keep the doors open must repeatedly quest for the often-elusive, everchanging answers to these questions.

 

One way to spark answers is to look at what other highly successful companies are doing. So, right now, what do cutting edge companies including Tesla Motors and Apple have in common? They are like many businesses (Coca-Cola, Walmart, Toyota, Xerox, Pillsbury) and cities (San Francisco, Austin, Hong Kong) around the world that are working to achieve Zero Waste goals. Going Zero Waste answers all three questions. It increases profit margins by increasing efficiency, cutting waste and reusing materials instead of throwing them away. It attracts more customers by building good publicity and positive press coverage because this style of operations is best for the environment. It helps you keep up with the changing times because Zero Waste is becoming a customer expectation and, soon, it will likely be a regulatory expectation, as well.

 

In my childhood, I remember throwing soda cans out of the back window of the car. Back then, companies polluted with equal non-chalance. There was very little awareness regarding litter, waste or the environment back then. Not many people really knew or cared about such things. Today, pollution, waste and environmental toxicity are not tolerated well by the general public, particularly by our youngest consumers, who will make a much larger economic impact as they get older. Gone are the days of sloppy business practices; companies that want to compete must become Zero Waste enterprises.

upcycled art

Today’s youth learn the value of discards through trash art workshops such as this one

If your business hasn’t yet started working towards Zero Waste, then where do you start? The first step is to set a Zero Waste goal. Next, you need to brainstorm all of the ways you can reduce, reuse, recycle and compost the waste you are currently sending to the landfill. Apple offers a particularly interesting example of a waste-cutting practice that has taken them closer to Zero Waste. Ever the innovator, Apple has been experimenting with recycling technology and actually invented Liam, a line of robots that can disassemble iPhone 6, sorting high-quality components and reducing the need to mine more natural resources from the earth. With two Liam lines up and running, Apple takes apart up to 2.4 million phones a year. Through efforts like these, Apple has kept more than 597 million pounds of equipment out of landfills since 1994.

Of course, most of us business owners don’t have robot inventors on staff. Even so, there are plenty of creative ways for all entities to increase efficiency and cut waste. If, like most businesses, you need help figuring out the most cost-effective ways to increase your efficiency, our team is happy to help. We are now offering Zero Waste facility certifications for business locations that meet the Zero Waste Principles of the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA). These third-party certifications empower your reputation as a progressive, upstanding business. Prior to certification, we will consult with you regarding specific steps you can take to cut waste, reuse materials and redesign business practices to gradually work towards Zero Waste. Our consultants can also help you plan for building updates like solar power. Please contact jbushe@adbongo.io to schedule a consultation and to find out more information about facility certifications.

How Much Progress Has Dallas Made on Zero Waste?

Cities and Businesses Saving Money & Environment Through Efficiency

man cleaning up beach of plastic trash

Zero Waste promises to protect our oceans from plastic trash. Image from forumforthefuture.com

Do you know why cities all around the world are setting Zero Waste goals? Probably the most compelling reason is the fact that waste is valuable. That’s not the mentality with which most of us have been raised, is it? Garbage is garbage. You throw it in bag, put on the street for your local sanitation workers to cart away, and it’s thrown into a hole somewhere far away. Good riddance! Today, though, more and more cities and businesses are waking up to the idea that our waste can be mined for resources; there are perfectly good metals, plastics, organics and wood in the landfill. Billions of dollars are thrown away in stinking holes every year, and it’s time to reclaim those resources.

Upcycled art

This incredible dragon is produced completely by aluminum cans, and is located in the Paris Zoological Park at the Jardin de Plantes. (Image Source: austinevan)

Being wise with the way we use and re-use our (waste) resources is also incredibly important for the environment. Zero Waste means cities or businesses are working to be as efficient as they can possibly be, refusing to waste the earth’s water, oil, minerals, metals and materials. For some, the fact that Zero Waste is one of the healthiest choices we can make for our earth is a convincing reason to put such a plan in place.

Our team passionately believes in both the economic and environmental promise of Zero Waste. That’s why members of our team have been working to make sure Zero Waste becomes a reality in Dallas, Texas (among other cities) for years. In fact, we first started advocating for a Dallas Zero Waste goal in 2010, when we met with the Sanitation Department Director to tell him about this fairly new movement among progressive cities.

Soon after our meeting, Dallas took its first step on the Zero Waste path. The city adopted a Zero Waste goal – which was good, but, unfortunately, they also put forward an ordinance called flow control – which was not so good. Instead of giving the community access to the valuable municipal waste stream (discarded resources that can be used to make new products) as we believe should happen with the implementation of good municipal Zero Waste plans, Dallas tried to monopolize the waste for their own use by controlling the flow of waste. Eventually, a federal court ruled that Dallas’ monopolization of the waste was illegal, and the city had to rethink its Zero Waste plan.

Since that time, we had the opportunity to train several Dallas officials (along with representatives from surrounding Dallas suburbs and Fort Worth) at a Zero Waste workshop hosted by Northlake College, so we know they are on track with the right information.

This week, we checked in with city officials to find out how much progress Dallas has made in the quest to become a Zero Waste city since we last spoke at our training. Recent developments include the planned construction of a new recycling facility on the McCommas Bluff Landfill site in Southern Dallas, thanks to Spanish firm, Fomento de Construcciones y Contratas, known as FCC, owned partially by billionaires Bill Gates, George Soros and Carlos Slim.

Additionally, Green Dallas (the City of Dallas’ sustainability office) told us that Dallas is addressing their Zero Waste plan in phases. “We are working on multi-family recycling, and using other cities’ experiences to create a successful program. We are working with organizations like the North Central Texas Stewardship Forum and the North Texas Corporate Recycling Association to offer more options to local residents and companies. We have electronics recycling, cooking oil recycling, and other programs open to Dallas residents. There are many groups that have organized around food waste, and that will be a topic as we move forward with our Local Foods, Local Places program.”

upcycling furniture

Berkeley, CA’s Urban Ore Ecopark sells discards instead of landfilling. Image source: urbanore.com

They also asked us to check out their calendar for some upcoming solid waste workshops presented by the NCTCOG Transportation Department.

Going forward, our team will continue to advocate for Zero Waste actions that will benefit Dallas’ economics while also improving the lives of city residents and ensuring responsible stewardship of the earth’s invaluable resources. Please let us know what we can do for your city or business, as well. Our Zero Waste consultations and trainings help municipalities and businesses to achieve maximum efficiency and sustainability while optimizing economics. We also offer customized private webinars focusing on the particular needs and desires of individual cities or businesses. Contact jbushe@adbongo.io to find out how we can assist you as you progress towards your goals.

How Municipalities Can Better Manage Taxpayer Resources

Benefits of a Zero Waste Plan as Demonstrated Using Farmers Branch, Texas

 

compost fertilizer

Flower grown in compost, a product that can be made from the community’s brush

If you are like most people, you probably don’t spend much time thinking about your community’s waste disposal system. It’s not exactly a sexy topic, is it? But your community sinks a great deal of your tax dollars into waste. Hopefully, your city is thinking about how they can turn the flow of money around, from big expenditures required to get rid of trash to big profits from progressive resource management systems. Wouldn’t you rather have more money for good local schools and beautiful city parks instead of big spending on what amounts to vulture food at the dump?

New York City spends over $2 billion to get rid of waste each year, a whopping $300 million of which is used solely to pay the shipping bill to cart trash away from the city. Fortunately for NYC residents, waste managers there and in many forward-thinking cities around the US and world are working to implement Zero Waste plans. Designing municipal systems for maximum efficiency and better use of waste resources should save money or even generate new sources of income in most if not all locations. Money makes the trash conversation at least a little bit sexier, yes?

What would you want your community to do with more money? How does a city go about making a wise plan to better manage community waste and resources? Farmers Branch, Texas (Dallas area) offers an example of a community that has made some decisions that could potentially lead it to generate new revenue while reducing municipal waste.

Farmers Branch had the foresight to create Camelot, a landfill, when it was out in the boondocks. Now, the landfill is such an important part of waste management to surrounding communities that Farmers Branch has had to file a permit to expand the landfill.

On the plus side, Farmers Branch is already getting paid by other cities to operate their own landfill, and they aren’t having to pay an insanely expensive garbage shipping bill like New York City since their landfill is close to home. On the minus side, In 2015 the City of Lewisville sued Farmers Branch, alleging hazardous pollutants were being released at Camelot Landfill, threatening the North Texas water supply. The two cities settled, and as part of the agreement, many changes were requested regarding Camelot. Among the issues remaining to be resolved is a request by Camelot Landfill for state approval to dramatically increase the size and height of the landfill, a necessary change indicated in the settlement.

We contend that now is the time for Farmers Branch to revisit their landfill plans, focusing on solutions that will provide much more benefit than simply containing an ever-higher mountain of toxic trash. Farmers Branch can do better than tipping fees and landfill expansion. They need a Zero Waste plan that will transform waste disposal systems into resource management systems, a shift we like to call “trash to cash.” Such a plan would evaluate all of the various kinds of waste – plastics, organics/compostables, metals, paper, etc.- and figure out how the community can sort and reuse these materials, – repurposing, remanufacturing and selling the “new items.” Instead of the Himalayas of landfilled trash, Farmers Branch could create opportunities for new businesses, new jobs and new revenue as a result of allowing the creation of a Zero Waste resource recovery park.

The first step in such a Zero Waste plan would be easy for Farmers Branch. On meeting with Shane Davis, the Farmers Branch Waste Manager, he shared that the problem with his discard stream is brush. Brush (yard waste and tree trimmings) accounts for a large percentage of his waste stream. Why? It’s unnecessary to fill Camelot up with cut grass and tree limbs. Not only would brush break down much faster in the right conditions, but it can also be made into a saleable product (compost, an excellent fertilizer) instead of simply rotting in the dump.

How would Farmers Branch leaders go about making a change like this happen? They say the pen is mightier than the sword.  Farmers Branch has formed a sustainability council which has no agenda. I met with David Griggs, a lawyer on this council.  We both agreed that composting (taking care of that brush problem) needs to be written to the agenda.

However, the initial composting piece needs to be a component of a larger, long-term Zero Waste plan. On the west side of I-35 is an industrial area that includes the Dallas Makerspace and recyclers like Balcones. Community Waste Disposal (who handles the Farmers Branch recycling contract) had an agent at the last Zero Waste Business Council training in Austin so we know they are heading in the Zero Waste direction. These businesses are a perfect recipe for a Zero Waste Zone like Atlanta’s collection of businesses that works together to implement wise resource management plans. Atlanta’s Zero Waste Zone is based on organics (compostables). We definitely need the composting piece of the Zero Waste puzzle here as well, but the prospect of manufacturing new products out of waste plastic 3d printer ink with the Makerspace’s help is also an attractive piece. Composting plus remanufacturing equals a big step in the right direction.

3d printing plastic waste

A West African inventor made a $100 3D printer which he constructed from salvaged computer parts

So, what exactly are we proposing here?   For Farmers Branch, we recommend:

  1.  Manage resources, not waste
  2.  Get a plan for compost
  3.  Give the plan to a local business
  4.  Adopt a Zero Waste goal
  5.  Join up with Carrolton, Addison, and Lewisville to create an ecodistrict.org or Zero Waste Zone like Atlanta
  6.  Incentivize remanufacturing, especially around Camelot landfill

Since the waste managers for Farmers Branch, Lewisville, Addison and Carrolton attended our Zero Waste training webinars, we know they are familiar with Zero Waste. We also know that people in their communities are asking for it.

Anything besides efficiency is waste and a symptom of bad design.  We demand healthy vibrant economies free of waste. Our land needs fertile soil which can be made from brush that is currently being wasted. We want this brush and all the other wasted materials in the landfill to go to a higher and better use. Winter is coming.

Like Farmers Branch, most communities can benefit from Zero Waste planning. If you are a community member who wants your city to go Zero Waste, then please contact your city council, city manager and mayor and let them know. If you are a leader who wants to bring Zero Waste design to your city or an entrepreneur who sees a business opportunity in such a plan, please contact our team. We can help you with a variety of Zero Waste services, from municipal and business planning to Zero Waste facility certifications and efficiency measures (including implementation of solar and wind energy, efficient lighting, and improved resource (waste) management.

How to Increase Efficiency and Profits Through Better Resource Management

Why US Zero Waste Business Council Conference is a Must Attend Event

zero waste sustainable packaging

Atlanta USZWBC conference 2014, image from upstreampolicy.org

Two years ago, I had a wonderful experience at the US Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) conference in Atlanta. I got the chance to network with and learn from sustainability experts with big name companies like Toyota and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company. I found out how businesses have worked together to build a Zero Waste zone in Atlanta, creating good publicity for all involved entities. I also learned concrete lessons from companies that have successfully implemented and profited from extreme efficiency measures. I was inspired by a conversation about using credits to incentivize sustainability initiatives, and now my company is working to develop a system of credits for our customers.

All in all, I gained perspective on the future of sustainability while also picking up practical tools I needed to take care of business today. Most importantly, I got hard numbers from Zero Waste case studies such as the Mariners Stadium, Atlanta Airport, and Nevada County, California. This data emboldened my company to invest in USZWBC Zero Waste certifications for our associates, which is now allowing us to offer facility certifications based on LEED.

mariners zero waste stadium

I highly recommend this conference (coming up June 1-4 in Austin, Texas) to business, municipal and school leaders who want to make sure their entities remain relevant as we navigate a rapidly changing relationship with resources and “things.” The way we conduct day-to-day business, from our use of office supplies to our evolving transportation and delivery system to the way we dispose of waste, is in flux. When we don’t stay up-to-date with these changes, our costs become unmanageable, we fail to meet customer expectations and our profits suffer. The USZWBC conference allows you to learn from the people who are creating the new resource management paradigm, empowering you to keep pace with those at the cutting edge or, perhaps, equipping you with tools to innovate the next big idea.

The top Zero Waste experts in the nation are organizing and leading this conference. With the information and skills you will learn at this event, you will be empowered to lead your organization down the Zero Waste path.

USZWBC Conference austin

By attending this conference, participants will:
  • Learn about the latest best practices for businesses and college campuses pursuing Zero Waste
  • Network to learn from peers and grow your business
  • Meet vendors who can provide the latest equipment and services to get to Zero Waste
  • Find out how to get a facility certified as Zero Waste
  • Find out how to get certified as a Zero Waste Business Associate

Who should attend:

  • Corporate sustainability managers and facility managers looking to cut costs through greener practices
  • Small and Mid-Sized business managers looking to improve waste reduction practices
  • State and local government employees who help businesses reduce waste and get to Zero Waste
  • Environmental consulting firms that want to learn about the latest successes in Zero Waste and certification
  • Colleges and universities trying to meet waste reduction goals and cut costs

Conference goals:

  • Helping businesses achieve Zero Waste to both help the environment and their bottom line.
  • Teaching businesses waste reduction methods from the leaders in the field including industry specialists and experts from Zero Waste businesses that have achieved more than 90% diversion 
Austin REsource Recovery sponsors USZWBC

Host and sponsor of the 2016 USZWBC conference

Please contact Kimbriel at 903-805-2312 if you have any questions about Zero Waste or if you want to explore the possibility of Zero Waste facility certification for your operation. To get a discount on your USZWBC conference ticket, please use this code to receive the early bird rate + 20% off promo partner discount on top of that: ebpnzwbc16zwa.

Teaching Zero Waste in School

Upcycling Trash for a Cleaner, Brighter Future

upcycled art projects from plastic bottles

John giving the children ideas for art projects made from bottles

This week, John Bushe taught kindergarten – 9th grade students at his daughter’s school how to use their trash to make upcycled art projects. As is the case for so many of our kids, the students already had a good grasp on the importance of resource conservation. The school asks that the students only bring reusable bottles and containers for snacks and lunches, and they aim to make as little waste as possible in each classroom. Therefore, after first proposing that John teach a Zero Waste class, the teachers saved what little trash their classes produced for two months in order to have materials on hand.

Using these waste materials plus a large used canvas John reclaimed from an artist who threw it away, John guided the students to create a bird house, a castle fortress and a new painting. Principal Nrtya Kisori had this to say about the class in the school newsletter:

If you find yourself, as a parent, spending much time and effort coming up with various engagements and gadgets for your children, you should have seen our group of 30 students, ages 4 to 14, happily and deeply absorbed for over an hour in playing and creating with what you would normally call “trash”!

John Bushe, the father of our student Ember, is the owner of Adbongo, a resource efficiency consulting business. What you consider your garbage and scraps, he sees as endless possibilities of creations.  In his pocket, he carries a wallet made of juice boxes. The soles of his shoes are made of tires. He came to our school to present his ideas and increase awareness for reusing and repurposing waste. With him he brought a wreath made of what you’d simply call “junk”. Within minutes, all the children were busy creating, constructing, painting, cutting, gluing. “The only limitation is your imagination” John said. One student, inspired by this idea, went home and gathered some boxes to create a model of “TKG Academy” building.

We are hoping together to improve our use of our resources and reduce the waste. Certainly, we will not look at trash the same way again…

Schools are an excellent place to promote Zero Waste and environmental stewardship in general because the students are responsible for shaping the future of this planet. That’s why John recommends that all schools adopt an official Zero Waste policy, as perhaps best exemplified by Chico State University. He spoke to the TKG Academy principal about adopting just such a goal for her school.

To find out more about how your local schools, businesses and municipal government can work towards Zero Waste goals, please contact us today.

Sign and share the petition to make Texas a Zero Waste state! Texas Zero Waste Petition

How Governments and Businesses Can Reach Zero Waste Goals

Achieving and Reporting Waste Diversion Rates at State, Municipal & Business Levels

recycling plastic bottle for zero waste

Recycling, upcycling & composting divert waste from landfill. Image from waltdisneycompany.com

Do you remember a time when someone gave you a piece of information that unexpectedly changed the course of your life? The unsolicited advice people give us often fails to resonate, as The Graduate’s Mr. McGuire failed to convince Dustin Hoffman’s character, Benjamin Braddock, to make his recommended career choice with the familiar line: “I just want to say one word to you. Just one word. Plastics.” Benjamin walked away with zero interest in plastics.

Oftentimes, life-changing bits of wisdom and information would leave the speaker surprised if they knew the impact of their words. For example, when Bob Gedert, Austin, Texas’ Resource Recovery Director, told the participants at a 2008 Zero Waste community meeting that the city needed to figure out how to make the economics of their municipal Zero Waste goal work, he may’ve been surprised to learn that one of the participants, JP Bushe, would go on to build a new kind of business in order to solve that problem. While JP had already begun to learn about and plan for resource recovery (upcycling waste streams to make products instead of landfilling those discards), the information Mr. Gedert shared about economics and, at a later time, about the lack of good waste diversion data, led JP to realize that cities like Austin that are working to send less waste to landfills need help both achieving their goals and proving that they have achieved their goals through accurate data collection.

composting helps with waste diversion

Composting diverts waste from landfill. Image from fullcirclecompost.com

Prior to that 2008 Zero Waste meeting, JP’s focus was on the cause business incubator he founded, Adbongo, Inc. Today Adbongo continues to grow ventures through research partnerships with Dallas universities including Southern Methodist University (SMU) and University of North Texas (UNT). In addition to his work with Adbongo, JP is finally close to the birth of his second business baby, Zero Waste Advocacy (ZWA), conceived in response to Mr. Gedert’s information.

The concept for Zero Waste Advocacy took shape after JP talked to a number of municipal waste managers and completed Zero Waste training with Gary Liss and Rick Anthony, two of the most respected leaders of the Zero Waste movement. JP began to build the Zero Waste Advocacy business idea along with a strong team of co-founders including Texas Zero Waste Strategies founder, Stacy Guidry; Green Ox Energy founder, Justin Godsey; Tokenly CEO, Adam Levine and Sustain, Inc founder, Xavior Patterson. Together the ZWA team is creating a technology that rewards businesses for fully participating in their city’s waste diversion program while also providing municipalities with the framework to accurately record and report waste management data.

In the years since that 2008 task force meeting, Austin’s waste diversion rates clearly make the case for outside partnerships with businesses like ZWA that can help them meet their goals. By 2040, Austin’s goal is to divert 90% of their waste from the landfill. Their Resource Recovery Department (formerly known as Solid Waste Services) has created an innovative, progressive waste diversion program that deserves nothing but commendation. Even so, this department cannot achieve their goals without the active participation of businesses and individuals in the community. That’s why their waste diversion rates improved dramatically until 2010, when the rates began to stagnate in the 37-39% range (source: Austin Sustainability Indicators).

austin texas waste diversion rates

Currently, Austin is testing a curbside composting pilot program which may eventually impact their waste diversion rates, but other solutions are needed to improve these rates (though we must also question the accuracy of the reported waste diversion rates since the head of the department admitted they need data collection help.)

Improving waste diversion rates and collecting and reporting accurate data are problems shared among cities all over the nation. As reported in this article, “States across the country are scrambling to reach lofty waste diversion rates in response to an EPA call to action to do so. They are setting specific diversion-from-landfill targets and developing calculated waste management practices to reach their end goals.”

Like it or not, we’re all going Zero Waste. If states are required to reduce landfill waste, municipalities and ultimately American businesses and individuals will be the ones to carry out these goals. Fortunately, businesses and municipalities generally see financial benefits when they implement Zero Waste plans; essentially, Zero Waste maximizes efficiency and plans for the best and highest use of all resources. Due to Zero Waste planning, General Motors saves $1 billion a year and Interface, Inc. has saved $90 million since 1994.

GM waste diversion saves money

General Motors’ zero waste strategy

The article continues: “There’s one big problem: many [states] may not know where they’re starting from” when implementing waste diversion plans. “Debra Kantner, an environmental engineer at the Environmental Research and Education Fund (EREF), said, “We see real-life scenarios where states are using underestimated EPA figures to inform their waste management decisions.” A Columbia University study published in BioCycle reported 269.8 million tons of municipal solid waste (MSW) were landfilled in 2011, while EPA estimates were 132.4 million tons—a gaping 103% difference.” The problem is there is no apples-to-apples comparison, or rather no MSW-to-MSW comparison.

A standardized data collection and reporting technology is a solution which will aid state and municipal decision-makers to develop well-informed, wise Zero Waste plans. “The numbers will have an impact in forming policies. And these policies will guide on-the- ground management and operation decisions moving forward,” said Kantner.

Zero Waste Advocacy is working to provide just such a standardized data collection system that also offers businesses the incentives they need to participate in state and community waste diversion efforts. Businesses and governments that are interested in this technology can contact Kimbriel Dean at kimbriel@adbongo.io to register for a free webinar with more information.

Interview Questions for Upcyclers

Market Research for a More Efficient Circular Economy

We are working with hundreds of entrepreneurs and businesses around the world to build a more efficient system for our discards. If you are an upcycler (a business that reuses or resells materials that have been discarded by other businesses or individuals), please help us do market research and fill out this form to help us create a more efficient resource recovery system for Texas (elsewhere is great too).

What is your incentive? We may be able to help you find new or less expensive sources of materials, and we also may have new customers for you. By helping us with this brief survey, you will potentially save money, increase efficiency, create jobs, and restore a healthy local economy. In addition, we are happy to offer you a free efficiency audit to say thank you! Contact kimbriel@adbongo.io to schedule your audit.

*Please note: all questions on this form must be answered in order for us to use the data. Thank you!