Just because something is called garbage, doesn’t mean it’s useless. When a company that Sustainable Waste Solutions (SWS, who also style themselves “The Landfill Free Company”) had a contract with called a tractor trailer load of cling wrap garbage, SWS hauled it away, put it on Ebay and sold it for a chunk.
We met with Randall Hendricks and Dieter Scheel, the founder-CEO and VP of Sustainable Waste Solutionsm (SWS). They showed us around their facility in Souderton, Pennsylvania, which had a local feel.
With a single truck, they began in 2008 as a specialty waste company, primarily handling pharmaceutical waste. Now, in 2013, they have 17 trucks and are hauling municipal solid waste for businesses that range from universities to chocolate manufacturers.
What particularly interested me in SWS was their ability to recognize the value in waste. Too often, an item is designated waste by a company or industry, perhaps because of a company policy or regulation that restricts the company from using it (hygiene standards for food-packaging, or contaminant standards in the pharmaceutical industry), or because it is not something they have an immediate use for (a production line is shut down), or for many other reasons. Often, a large waste company will blindly accept the waste designation and dispose of it. That’s what they are paid for. SWS is able to see that waste doesn’t have to be wasted.
In addition to their nimble efforts to find uses for their customers’ unwanted items, SWS is hoping to brand their “Landfill Free” concept, envisioning companies paying for a landfill-free certification.
Being “landfill-free” raises an interesting conversation: if you aren’t going to bury anything in a landfill, what are you going to do with all the stuff that you can’t find a use for? The answer is to use the same trick as most people who subscribe to the idea of Zero Waste: burn it in an incinerator that recovers electricity from the waste, so you can state that you are not letting anything go to waste.
While incineration reduces the mass of your garbage, in almost every case I’ve heard about, you still end up with something that needs to be landfilled.