Waste not want not

One person’s garbage is another person’s gold — just ask any garage sale addict. Now, the industrial garage sale is coming of age thanks to a few smart-thinking schools and industrious companies.

Based on that premise, 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 hazardous waste, are resold through the exchange.
The Exchange, active for a only few years, has more than 200 organizations in the Youngstown area taking advantage of 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 leftover raw materials.

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

Every company generates useable waste; packing peanuts are a good example. The Styrofoam packaging product is a necessary evil. It protects fragile components during shipment but is difficult to handle and expensive to dispose of properly. The peanuts are used en masse by electronics companies, and purchasing through an exchange program can significantly reduce 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 (OSS) in Fremont. 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.