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New Online Marketplace Will Allow US Companies to Exchange Underutilized Materials

Image credit: DIY Trade

The National Materials Marketplace, a new joint pilot project led by the Corporate Eco Forum (CEF), US Business Council for Sustainable Development (US BCSD), and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), brings together more than 20 major companies with operations in the United States, helping them identify ways to reuse or exchange undervalued materials via an online database, and establish new circular supply chains.

Participating companies include: 3M; Armstrong World Industries; CH2M; Eastman Chemical; Essroc – Italcementi Group; Holcim-Geocycle; Fairmount Santrol; Goodyear; General Motors; Nike; Novelis – Aditya Birla Group; The Dow Chemical Company; Tetra Pak, Inc.; Swisstrax; Systech; and many others.

“The increasing pressure on our natural resources sends a clear message: We need to find value in discarded materials,” says Andrew Mangan, Executive Director of US BCSD. “Growing cross-industry collaboration for the efficient use of our resources is promising. This opens up new business opportunities while creating economic, environmental and societal benefits.”

“The Materials Marketplace project is a key step towards the shift to a circular economy — one where waste becomes the new engine for creating value,” says Peter Bakker, president and CEO of the WBCSD. “Unlocking business-to-business reuse opportunities ensures effective waste management and delivers integrated benefits.”

The potential benefits of matching material and by-product waste streams with opportunities for reuse are massive. In recent years, General Motors has generated nearly $1 billion in annual revenue through reusing and recycling its by-products. By finding reuse and recycling options for this material, GM avoided over 10 million metric tons of CO2-equivalent emissions in 2014.

"Material management is a business opportunity, not just a cost-reduction strategy," adds John Bradburn, GM’s Global Manager of Waste Reduction. “We have to reach the stage where by-products are viewed the same way we view product development – part of constant improvement and innovation.”

The Marketplace is a unique collaboration among the three business associations. Originally conceived at a CEF member meeting, the idea gained momentum with the support of early advocates including GM and Nike. The national pilot builds upon a similar regional project in Austin, Texas, as well as other “by-product synergy” projects in North America, China and the United Kingdom over the past 20 years.

CEF director Amy O’Meara explains: “US BCSD’s expertise and software were exactly what our members were looking for. And joining forces with US BCSD and WBCSD was a natural fit, given the significant complementarity of our memberships. By leveraging each of our organizations’ strengths, we can deliver increased value to participating companies.”

By joining the pilot, participating businesses benefit from:

  • Lower operational costs due to cheaper feedstock and reduced waste disposal costs
  • Reduced carbon footprint owing to major cuts in energy use and GHG emissions
  • Reduced environmental footprint by avoiding waste disposal and raw material purchase
  • Enhanced social and economic impact through new business opportunities and jobs
  • Improved corporate reputation through the reporting of reuse activities and diversion of waste streams for productive purposes
  • A collaborative and dynamic business network allowing for exploration of new pathways for materials with other like-minded colleagues.

Lessons learned from the pilot will be used to scale up materials reuse projects worldwide, notably through the WBCSD’s Global Network of national business councils.

Novelis is no stranger to closing loops — in addition to closing in on its goal of increasing its recycling capacity and the recycled content of its products to 80 percent by 2020,the aluminum giant has partnered with Ford to build an infrastructure that is ensuring Ford’s automotive aluminum is recycled in a truly closed loop, recreating the same automotive sheet again and again. The companies have also been collaborating on the design of the vehicles themselves, using aluminum alloys that accept higher amounts of recycled content and planning with end-of-life recycling in mind.

Launched in 2006, Sustainable Brands has become a global learning, collaboration, and commerce community of forward-thinking business and brand strategy, marketing, innovation and sustainability professionals who are leading the way to a better future. We recognize that brands today have… [Read more about Sustainable Brands]

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