Eco-Capitalism - How to make money from garbage
Most of us probably have sold a few bottles and cans and got a couple dollars, but could you believe that some people have made millions or even billions of dollars from trash? Here are some stories of these innovative and garbage loving entrepreneurs.
Alchemy Goods - Eli Reich is the founder of this Seattle business where old bicycle innertubes are stitched together into messenger bags. According to BusinessWeek, he made his first bike inner tube bag after his messenger bag was stolen. The mechanical engineer soon received requests for his sturdy innertube bag and launched Alchemy Goods. Now he has a few employees and a whole line of products made out of old innertubes, seatbelts, and outdoor ad banners.
TerraCycle - I read about the story of Tom Szaky and Jon Beyer a few years ago and it was hard to forget. These two young men built a multi-million dollar company out of garbage through a lot of hard work and crazy experiments with barf inducing worms and solid waste. Their main product is a plant food made out of earthworm poop packaged in used soda bottles collected by kids all over North America. Their website still lists their main product as "worm poop fertilizer" and states that "TerraCycle Plant Food is the first mass-produced consumer product to have a negative environmental footprint".
Energy from garbage - Turning garbage into energy is not a new concept. Hundreds of garbage dumps across the country already capture the natural methane gas generated by the mountainous piles of solid waste. The City of San Francisco actually has a program that collects dog poop and turns it into energy through a anaerobic digester. Some cities sell the methane gas they produce from their garbage to energy companies and some others use the energy to power buildings, and many private companies are getting in on the garbage energy business. One company named Solena Group actually plans to build a plant in Gilroy, California to produce jet fuel from garbage .
Nine Dragons Paper - You probably have never heard of Zhang Yin, but this Queen of Trash from China is probably richer than every other woman in the world. She has a personal wealth of more than $1.5 billion and she got it all through recycling and manufacturing paper. She moved to America from Hong Kong in the 1990s and she remembered that China does not have many trees for manufacturing paper. So she scoured the garbage dumps of America with her husband and exported all of the paper she could get to China. Eventually her company Nine Dragons Paper made deals with American scrap yards and shipped huge amounts of paper back to China. Her company went public in 2006 and it is still growing because China has a insatiable demand for paper products.
The bottom line is that garbage is big business and some people are even risking fines and jailtime to collect it . Besides these examples in this article, there are thousands of companies and people around the world that deal with the processing, disposal, and transportation of garbage. Even so, the EPA estimates that only 32% of the United States' solid waste is recycled. Could there be a business opportunity for you in the millions of tons of trash we throw away every year?