It's National Recycling Week (18th - 24th June 2012) so it is an apt time to discuss and share how the well known fact that "One Person's Waste Is Another Person’s Treasure" is increasingly making commercial sense. Taking a co-operative, circular, symbiotic approach to waste can rebuild capital and fuel sustainable growth. NISP, the first industrial symbiosis initiative in the world to be launched on a national scale here in the UK is a powerful case study. We also venture an idea, sparked off while meeting with our community team partner, the Dyfi Biosphere Partnership, on how a 'mash up' app could provide a simple yet innovative means to take this approach one step further, particularly with the smaller firm very much in mind.
To quickly grasp the big picture, we recommend first watching the clever animation developed by the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (hat tip: WRAP UK). This animation shows there is a compelling opportunity to think differently about the way we design products so they can be 'made to be made again'.
Clearly manufacturers play a critical role in the 'circular economy' but if you are a retailer, this approach has implications for procurement, i.e. which products you stock and use and whether they can be easily remade or broken down into their constitutuent parts to allow them to easily re-enter our living system rather than ending up in landfill causing all sorts of quality of life issues. This aspect of the 'circular economy' will be addressed in the Business Climate platform when it launches early 2013. But there's another opportunity that we want you to tap into so more 'renewable fuel' is put back into the living system - your current waste streams.
As every business owner knows, generating and dealing with waste costs money, effort and has an impact on your local community and ecosystem. It needn't be this way. NISP, the UK's National Industrial Symbiosis Programme, is membership based and is free for all businesses, regardless of size, turnover or sector. NISP has thousands of members including multi-national corporates such as Shell UK and Lafarge Cement, and entrepreneurs, micros and SMEs (which make up over 90% of NISP’s membership). As the symbiosis name infers, NISP identify synergies for those material streams with a high environmental impact or where re-use opportunities are currently limited. These core material streams are: Metals, Food, Plastics, Textiles, Wood and WEEE.
NISP's track record is impressive. Between April 2005 and March 2010 NISP has helped its members by: generating £172 million in cost savings to businesses; leveraged a further £180 million in additional sales; diverted 7.8 million tonnes from landfill; reduced 7 million tonnes of CO2; saved 11 million tonnes of virgin materials; eliminated 408 thousand tonnes of hazardous waste; saved 12.7 million tonnes of water; and either saved or created 89,275 jobs. As we said... impressive.
As Business Climate will be an innovative, free of charge match making service to SMEs when we launch early 2013, exploring how we can best match businesses to NISP's regional programmes seems like a smart move on everyone's behalf. NISP is also no stranger to open innovation. When they bring let's say 20 professionals from a range of industries that rarely if ever meet, according to Fast Co.Exist, they can generate over 200 innovative ideas. Our idea is to extend this open innovation to crowdsourcing.
Business Climate see the potential in generating a 'mash up', using let's say the Google Maps API and to integrate both waste streams and solutions within one digital georeferenced environment. As a business owner, you could enter, via the web or your mobile, your waste streams, e.g. type of waste, quantity of waste, and as it would be georeferenced, your location. Crowdsourcing this activity could generate local, regional and nationwide (global?) inventories of so called 'waste'. Now to the exciting part - gaining a co-operative edge.
By crowdsourcing our waste streams, we could potentially open up a larger array of commercial opportunities for new markets and ventures. And these opportunities could be significantly expanded with open innovation via crowdsourcing. Crowdsourcing is not a new idea, and has been successfully applied to many corporate and social dilemmas, but not to diverse waste streams, particularly on a global scale, as far as we know.
We like the look of The Global Transition To A New Economy, a new project run by the New Economics Institute, the new economics foundation, Stakeholder Forum for a Sustainable Future and the Green Economy Coalition. While new and yet to untap its full potential, you can begin to see how a 'mash up' could be a nifty way to colour code different waste streams and allow people to hook up via the web to explore potential collaborations. We also like the idea of unleashing this open data to the public to stimulate the creation of potential solutions... and map these too, let's say with a different shaped pin.
Our JISC funding is unlikely to stretch to a whole new app, but from the outset we have anticipated ideas are likely to emerge during our platform's development. As such, these ideas will be regularly shared, and if they capture your attention, they are more likely to get on the 'to do' list. Nevertheless, Business Climate is committed to the circular economy and hopes to nurture some interesting partnerships along the way. At the very least, we definitely want to match SME waste streams to NISP's programme where ever we can.