By-Product Synergy

ROC Detroit Wraps Up Second Working Meeting

roc group

The Reuse Opportunity Collaboratory (ROC) Detroit held its second working meeting on April 8th at the General Motors Renaissance Center. The meeting attracted wonderful turnout from Detroit industries, institutions, small and medium sized businesses, and entrepreneurs looking to unlock how to transform waste into new products and new business opportunities. Keep an eye out here, and on, for a meeting summary and new project developments.

Repurposing Chevy Volt Battery Covers as Nest Boxes


DETROIT, MICHIGAN – General Motors, ROC Detroit project champion and US BCSD member, is repurposing Chevy Volt battery covers into Scaly-sided merganser nest boxes. The Scaly-sided merganser is endangered, and General Motors is working through the US BCSD and Wetlands International to help these beautiful waterfowl. John Bradburn, chairman of the US BCSD Executive Committee, designed and built the boxes after discussing the requirements with Wetlands International. John based his design on similar nest boxes built for the North American Wood Duck, however the size is scaled up to nearly three feet tall since the Scaly-sided merganser is larger. 10 boxes have been sent to China so far.

Materials Management as Carbon Reduction Strategy

Let’s make materials management a recognized and rewarded carbon reduction strategy of the proposed UN Climate Change Agreement

By Andrew Mangan, US BCSD and Marian Chertow, Yale University

Modern society has an intense thirst for physical resources to meet daily human needs, wants, and desires, which, in turn, is supported by the businesses and industries that collectively service these requests. The processes that provide physical resources generate significant quantities of waste at every step of the way, exposing us all to vast environmental, energy, and resource availability challenges. Once again much of the world is focusing on global climate with the upcoming meetings in 2015 in Paris following another year of bewildering weather and readily apparent land change. Years of research have shown that waste reduction is repeatedly associated with lowering greenhouse gases (GHGs) that exacerbate climate change. It is time we recognize the good actors and reward them by making waste reduction a recognized carbon reduction strategy in the upcoming UN climate negotiations.

While waste and materials management have not been on the front line of climate solutions, current emphasis on lifecycle approaches reveals that it is time to reconsider their role. If we break the climate problem down into different economic sectors, we see that energy and transport are nearly 2/3 of where GHG emissions originate – based primarily on fossil fuels burned to generate electricity and also to power vehicles (Figure 1). Yet, a recent US EPA report suggests that we slice the pie chart a bit differently to increase understanding of what EPA now calls “materials management” described as “serving human needs by using and reusing resources most productively and sustainably throughout their lifecycles.” (source) From a materials management perspective, the second chart below, based on a systems rather than sectoral approach, becomes quite relevant (Figure 2). As seen here, materials management systems for providing food and other goods accounts for 42% of GHG emissions. This figure embraces a lifecycle perspective that considers the extraction of natural resources, production, transport and disposal of food and other goods.

US GHG Emissions

Source: US EPA 2009. Opportunities to Reduce Greenhouse Gas. Emissions through Materials and Land Management Practices

Great work is going on in industry toward materials management that not only creates new revenues and saves on landfill, but also reduces climate impacts when virgin materials can be avoided and efficiency can be increased. Some interesting ways that industries we work with are having success fall into three categories: internal reuse and recycling within a firm or facility, online material trading with other firms, and trading across unrelated facilities in the same geographical area. These are discussed below:

  1. Trading across unrelated facilities in the same geographical area – While geographic concentrations of industry are often heavy generators of GHGs associated with global climate change, impacts can be modulated through collaborative approaches. Emerging from industrial ecology is the notion of “industrial symbiosis” – where a cluster of geographically proximate firms exchange material by-products, energy, and water in a mutually beneficial manner such that waste from one industrial process becomes the feedstock for another. Through such systems, transportation costs and emissions are minimized and materials and energy already embedded in products is conserved, enabling GHG emissions to be greatly reduced at the industrial scale. For example, in Austin, Texas, the Austin Materials Marketplace is bringing together businesses of all sizes and entrepreneurs in the City of Austin and Travis County to create closed-loop systems in which one company’s waste is another company’s raw material. Other networked clusters have been found across the world from the mineral processing region in Kwinana, Australia to China’s enormous Tianjin Economic –Technological Development Area to Kalundborg Denmark, and the industrial cluster of Ulsan, Korea. And the Reuse Opportunity Collaboratory began in Detroit, Michigan, USA to bring together urban entrepreneurs and community economic development organizations to find ways of reusing materials such as deconstructing old buildings rather than demolishing them to repurpose resources for alley repaving and to construct new sidewalks.
  2. Andrew Mangan presents materials reuse in Lima, Peru on 12/4/14.

    Andrew Mangan presents materials reuse in Lima, Peru on 12/4/14.

    Internal reuse and recycling within a firm or facility – In addition to traditional materials management that has gone on as long as there has been industry, the US Business Council for Sustainable Development is seeing an upsurge in members paying careful attention to by-product reuse. General Motors and Nike, for example, both operate with the mindset that waste is merely a resource out of place, and both have set billion dollar goals based on material reuse. They emphasize improving material yields, reusing remaining scrap in a closed loop back into their own products and maximizing recycling of the rest.

  3. Online materials trading – old fashioned “waste exchanges” once served the purpose of letting one firm know that another had a discarded resource to offer for sale. Today most of this happens on line and systems are getting more sophisticated. An outpouring of interest at the business organization level this year indicates that this collaborative big data approach may be getting ready for primetime. This summer, the US BCSD joined with companies from the Corporate Eco Forum in launching a new online Materials Marketplace aimed at scaling reuse across hundreds or potentially thousands of companies. In November, the World Business Council for Sustainable Development expressed its interest in the marketplace through its newly formed Safe and Sustainable Materials Cluster. The new software takes advantage of user-centric design and standardized and accessible data templates, to make it possible for companies to share information about the materials flowing through their operations in a confidential, safe environment. Having access to this kind of information has led to material reuse opportunities such as reusing fibrous wastes in ceiling tiles, waste heat from cement kilns drying brewery grain for bricking and shipping; and converting ephemeral packaging products into a range of cascading product forms as companies recognize there is value in what they used to think of as waste.

Recognizing and rewarding the climate benefits of material reuse is needed now to provide a positive path for decarbonized economic progress. Characterizing the values, both direct life cycle benefits and broader societal advancements, achievable through this frugal, inclusive approach will be necessary. But related systems exist and can be applied, tailored for materials management. Devising such a system is not a simple matter and would take a ramp up in our understanding of GHG accounting and the most recent climate models. This move would also require taking on the types of issues that have been difficult to resolve with, for example, the Clean Development Mechanism regarding additionality – so that waste managers would not be rewarded for “business as usual” but rather for innovative development. By adopting materials management as a core strategy of the climate agreement, governments will be empowering companies, communities and countries to move toward a more circular economy where wastes become resources that can be used over and over again as they are in the natural world. At the same time, adopting rewards for carbon reductions in materials management would bring a whole new community into the realm of climate solutions.

Andrew Mangan is Co-Founder and Executive Director of the United States Business Council for Sustainable Development and Marian Chertow is Associate Professor of Industrial Environmental Management at the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies.

Other news: COP20: Gobiernos de Suiza y Perú resaltan la importancia del uso eficiente de recursos para la creación de Eco-parques Industriales

Great BPS Work Coming Out of the Austin Materials Marketplace

We’ve been especially busy over the last few weeks with our project in Austin – the Austin Materials Marketplace. We’re currently up to 27 participating businesses and organizations, ranging from large corporations like 3M and Spansion, down to local nonprofits like Any Baby Can.

On 11/12, we hosted a live Google Hangout to look specifically at brewery by-products and waste, and talk about some good reuse solutions we’re itching to help facilitate in Austin. Watch the recording below, and get in touch with us if it inspires any creative thinking.

And on 11/14 we hosted a medical devices-specific Google Hangout on how to transform medical device manufacturing waste into product. We discussed current industry best practices, some of our biggest waste challenges, and chatted about some interesting potential reuse opportunities. Watch below or click the Youtube link.

ROC-Detroit September 30th Launch Event: Suppliers Needed

LANSING, Mich. – Pure Michigan Business Connect is partnering with General Motors, the Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, CXCatalysts, and the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development to launch the Reuse Opportunity Collaboratory (ROC) initiative on September 30 in Detroit. The event will bring together Michigan industries, institutions, small and medium sized businesses, and entrepreneurs to develop zero-waste partnerships in which one organization’s waste becomes another’s raw material.

“ROC Detroit is a groundbreaking effort to support sustainable manufacturing while growing Michigan’s economy and creating jobs,” said Michigan Economic Development Corporation President and CEO Michael A. Finney. “The ROC Detroit summit will help Michigan’s small and growing companies connect with General Motors and other partner companies’ waste management officials to find ways to reuse waste byproduct materials to their fullest potential.”

The ROC-Detroit launch matchmaking summit, taking place at the GM Renaissance Center, will give participating businesses the opportunity to be matched to ROC partner companies centered on procurement or partnership prospects for byproduct materials reuse. The partner companies include Aevitas Specialty Services Corporation, Alpha Resins, DOW Materials, General Motors, Marathon Petroleum, and Walker-Miller Energy. Participating suppliers may include any manufacturing-based company or waste management company interested in zero-waste production, including energy companies, manufacturers, and waste reduction and recycling businesses.

“General Motors is enthusiastic about this partnership because we believe that waste is simply a resource out of place,” said John Bradburn, GM global manager of waste reduction. “This event will create by-product synergies by repurposing one company’s trash into another’s primary resource.”

The by-product materials needs and application information can be viewed at

Michigan companies interested in attending must complete the online application and identify their qualifications based on the needs listed. After each application is reviewed, invitations will be sent to companies whose intended purposes best match the available resources. Each invited company will have a private meeting to discuss potential opportunities with one of the procurement teams present at the summit.

The priority application deadline is Sept. 16, 2014. All applicants will be notified by Sept. 23 regarding participation eligibility. Applications received after the deadline will be considered if there are needs that have not been filled by the initial applicants.

Launched in 2011, Pure Michigan Business Connect is a public-private alliance of the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, state agencies and major Michigan companies and organizations that connects in-state companies to business resources. Companies can find new ways to raise capital, get access to professional business services at little or no cost, connect with each other through a new business-to-business network, and identify potential supplier opportunities, while developing resources to improve their supply chains.

New Materials Marketplace Program Helps Austin Businesses Divert Materials from Landfill

Businesses and entrepreneurs in Austin and Travis County now have a new resource to help find uses for unwanted materials. The US Business Council for Sustainable Development (US BCSD), Ecology Action of Texas, and Austin Resource Recovery today announced the launch of the Austin Materials Marketplace, an initiative in which one company’s waste becomes another company’s raw material.

The new public-private partnership aims to reduce waste going to landfills by connecting businesses that generate unwanted materials with businesses that can use those materials.

“We are excited to introduce this resource to the Austin business community so that today’s waste products can become tomorrow’s new revenue source,” said Bob Gedert, director of Austin Resource Recovery. “The launch of the Austin Materials Marketplace is an important step toward achieving Austin’s Zero Waste goal.”

Since 1995, US BCSD has successfully implemented similar business-to-business material reuse projects in Houston, Chicago, Columbus, Seattle, Kansas City and Mobile, as well as the United Kingdom and China.

“Core to our approach is use of a regularly monitored online database and structured network meetings facilitated by technical experts that help companies understand each other’s material flows and identify materials matches,” said Andrew Mangan, executive director of the US BCSD. “This collaboration stimulates innovative and business-friendly solutions. As a 21-year member of the Austin business community, the US BCSD is excited to bring our work home to Austin,” he added.

The business council has teamed up with Austin-based Ecology Action of Texas on this project, a non-profit organization with significant experience in the Austin recycling community.

”Ecology Action is thrilled to be a part of bringing the practices and principles of landfill diversion that we have developed over the last 44 years into the mainstream of the Austin business community and business culture. This project is an incredibly significant milestone in our community’s path towards Zero Waste,” said Joaquin Mariel, executive director of Ecology Action.

Businesses and organizations interested in the program are encouraged to attend next week’s information session on the marketplace:

Austin Materials Marketplace Information Session
Where: Big Medium, Canopy Gallery, 916 Springdale Rd, Austin, Texas 78702
When: August 19th, 5:30pm-8:30pm
What: Introductory social event with a short presentation of the project, networking opportunities, and food and beverages.

For more information, visit


The US Business Council for Sustainable Development is a member-led nonprofit business association that harnesses the power of collaborative regional projects to develop, deploy, and scale sustainable solutions to materials, water, energy, and ecosystem challenges. It is based in Austin, Texas, and has projects located throughout the U.S.

Ecology Action of Texas is an Austin company with more than 40 years of experience in resource recovery operations, landfill diversion, advocacy, and zero waste education. EA has operated a recycling/hard-to-recycle/reuse drop-off center in partnership with the City of Austin for 15 years.

Austin Resource Recovery provides a wide range of services designed to transform waste into resources while keeping our community clean. Services include curbside collection of recycling, trash, yard trimmings and large brush and bulk items; street sweeping; dead animal collection; household hazardous waste disposal and recycling; and outreach and education. In December 2011, the Austin City Council approved the Austin Resource Recovery Master Plan, which is the City’s roadmap to Zero Waste. The City of Austin is committed to keeping at least 90 percent of discarded materials out of the landfill by 2040 or sooner.

Checking In from Beijing

Andy Mangan, US BCSD Executive Director, is in Beijing this week reporting on outcomes from the Bohai By-Product Synergy Project. Special thanks to US BCSD members ConocoPhillips, Holcim, Alcoa, and GM; representatives from the US DOE, LBNL, Yale, NDRC, and MIIT; and our project partner the China Business Council for Sustainable Development.

Primer Congreso Internacional de Residuos in Buenos Aires

congresoAndy Mangan, US BCSD Executive Director, was invited to speak about By-Product Synergy on April 25th at the first Congreso Internacional de Residuos (International Congress of Waste), held in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The global event was attended by representatives from Colombia, Costa Rica, Venezuela, United States, Brazil, Spain, Greece, Italy, England, Germany and France.


Andy Mangan, US BCSD


Andy Mangan, US BCSD

Dr. Pedro J. J. Alvarez, Rice University.

Dr. Pedro J. J. Alvarez, Rice University.

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