Businesses around the globe produce nearly as much waste as they do product — almost 110 million tons annually in the US alone. Washington State spent more than 500 million dollars on waste disposal, recycling, and composting in 2009. But what is the real cost to business and the community?
“Unwasted” is a look at businesses and organizations in and around the Puget Sound who are leading the way toward a less wasteful, more profitable and environmentally sustainable society.
Did you know that a staggering 320 tons of gold and 7500 tons of silver are used in the production of PC’s cell phone, tablets and other electronic devices each year. Eventually all of this will end up as waste adding $21 billion of value to urban mining deposits every year.
This e-waste is a massive business opportunity with the amount of gold used each year the equivalent of 2.5% of the US gold reserves in the vaults of both Fort Knox, Kentucky, and the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.
In a world increasingly addressing issues of sustainability, it’s no wonder that such waste products are now being seen as urban mines – valuable sources of above-ground metals which can be recycled and reused.
That is the concept of the “circular economy”.
There is already some extensive recycling activity worldwide, helped by schemes such as the Product Stewardship framework which encourages people to reduce waste.But we still lose significant amounts of valuable and recyclable materials into landfill and park valuable metals in tailings and spoil heaps.
Are we on the cusp of an urban mining revolution?
Globally, there is already growing capacity and innovation in recycling.New forms of manufacturing and business models are being developed that integrate secondary manufacturing of recycled materials.We can’t keep relying solely on our raw mineral resources. Some commentators are now discussing materials scarcity as a bigger issue than energy scarcity.
This scarcity is driving a move towards a circular economy – one in which the value created by inputs (materials, energy and labour) is extended by enabling a material life that goes beyond product life. So we go from mineral to metal, to product, back to metal and so on.
Sustainable Design (Playlist)