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Trash to Treasure: Changing Waste Streams to Profit Streams

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Corporate Citizenship Center (CCC), in partnership with Trucost and The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, prepared Trash to Treasure: Changing Waste Streams to Profits Streams to educate the private sector about the business value of circular economy opportunities. More and more, companies are looking towards a circular economy business model as a way to cut costs and increase efficiency. Turning waste into a resource is a huge part of that, and this report takes a deep dive into how the private sector can make "trash" an economic opportunity.

Waste production is a serious problem for all American companies and industries. The largest 5,589 publically traded businesses in the United States sent 342 million metric tons of waste to landfills and incinerators in 2014. By understanding the size and value of that waste, and how to monetize it, companies can reduce waste going to landfills. Long-term solutions include incorporating more sustainable closed-loop manufacturing processes to limit waste or rethinking the system entirely, shifting to a circular economy in which waste is designed out entirely.

Trucost, experts in the environmental data and natural capital valuation, contributed data and analysis on the amounts, types, and flows of the waste produced by companies. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation contributed insights with broader strategies about how to capture that value and thematic support. Case study examples are also included, from companies such as Walmart, DSM, IBM, General Motors, Bridgestone, Dow, Veolia, Caterpillar, and Republic Services.

Many have suggested “waste is a resource in the wrong place.”Trash to Treasure quantifies that statement and offers actionable ways to put waste in the right place.

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