Waste not, want not Featured

8:47am EDT March 31, 2003
One person's garbage is another person's gold. Ask any garage sale addict and they'll tell you its true. Now, the industrial garage sale is coming of age thanks to a few smart-thinking schools and industrious companies.

Youngstown State University founded the Mahoning Valley Materials Exchange, a business unit within the school's Center for Engineering Research and Technology Transfer (CERTT). Unused chemicals, plastics, metals and wood products, along with agricultural and demolition byproducts and even hazardous waste, are resold through the exchange.

The Exchange has only been around for a few years and already more than 200 organizations in the Youngstown area participate in the opportunity to make money from waste. Marcia Barr, program manager, says numerous recyclable products are generated every day from inbound shipments, changes in suppliers and left over raw materials.

The Mahoning Valley Exchange has been so successful, Barr was asked by the University of Toledo to help establish a similar program there.

Every type of company generates useable waste. The notorious packing peanuts are a good example. The Styrofoam packaging product is a necessary evil.

It protects fragile or breakable components during shipment but is difficult to handle and expensive to dispose of properly. The peanuts are used en mass by electronic companies and purchasing through an exchange program can significantly reduce a company's packaging costs.

Hazardous products are also expensive to get rid of.

Barr says while exchange companies accept hazardous products, the burden of safety lies with the seller. "A generator (of hazardous waste products) has the liability from cradle to grave for their material," she says.

Amy Drummer is a marketing manager at the Ottawa/Sandusky/Seneca Materials Exchange in Fremont (OSS). She says even governmental agencies are wising up to the recycling opportunity. "It's kind of like a Yellow Pages for waste," Drummer says.

OSS has a client base of more than 1,800 organizations nationwide. "We've found that there are a lot companies out there that can reduce their costs by utilizing something another company doesn't want," says Drummer.

Raw materials are not the most expensive component of business. But in a down economy, the companies that survive are the ones that do all the right things, large and small, to trim overhead.

How to reach: Mahoning Valley Materials Exchange, (330) 742-2742 or http://certt.eng.ysu.edu; Ottawa/Sandusky/Seneca Materials Exchange, (419) 334-7223 or www.ossjswmd.org

For more contact information on material exchange recyclers, go to "Best Bets."