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Starting a business

Canadian Companies Recycling Waste Into Profits (And Why You Might Want to Follow Suit)

If you’re like most business owners, you’re probably already recycling paper, plastic, and a variety of other waste products. But it may be time to go a step further. Many businesses tell clients about their recycling efforts to improve their reputation, and lots of innovative companies are taking waste and upcyling it into their products or packaging. In both cases, you may want to follow suit.

Benefits of Recycling

Of course, recycling helps the environment by reducing the amount of waste that gets sent to the landfill, but, beyond that, recycling can help your bottom line. For instance, if you use waste to make your products, you typically cut the cost of your supplies. For example, Coca-Cola uses recycled materials in its aluminum cans and plastic bottles. In fact, the company hopes to have half of its bottles made of recycled materials by 2030.

But recycling doesn’t just drop the corporate giant’s supply prices. It also helps with its reputation. In particular, the company has been very active in picking up waste from around the Mississippi River to recycle, and it isn’t shy about sharing its stories. Even if your business is substantially smaller than Coco-Cola, you can mirror this strategy. To that end, you may want to start a recycling program in your office or sponsor a clean-up in your community. If you do, make sure to mine those activities for their public relations potential. Cover what you’re doing in your blog, tweet about it, and issue a press release to the local paper.

Closing the Loop

If you’re interested in using recycled goods in your business, you may want to look for ways to close the loop. In other words, you may want to create a direct connection between recyclers and your business. To illustrate how this can work, take the case of Ice River Springs. This company uses bottles made of 100% recycled materials, and to get the plastic it needs, it buys old plastic directly from municipalities and the country’s biggest food retailers. That cuts out the middleman and streamlines the process.

To review, a closed recycling loop includes the following three elements:

  1. Collecting recyclable items
  2. Manufacturing similar products out of the recycled items
  3. Buying recycled products.

In fact, the three arrows in the recycling symbol actually represent these three steps. In contrast, open loop recycling is basically the same process, but with an open loop, the recycled goods are turned into much different products than they originally were.

Opening the Loop and Upcyling

If you’re interested in turning old consumer goods into fun new products, you may want to take some inspiration from some of the companies that are already doing that. The founders of Nudnik, for example, take old fabric scraps and upcycle them into children’s clothing. Then, they silk screen fun designs onto the outfits. The twin sisters who own this company were inspired to put recycling at the heart of their business, thanks to their father who’s in the waste management business.

On a smaller scale, many crafters take "one man’s trash" and turn it into "another man’s treasure," as the old saying goes. This includes turning old baseball bats into bottle openers, cotton flour sacks into dish towels, and scratched records into bowls. If you manufacture products or sell crafts on a site such as Etsy, you may want to explore similar ideas in your own business.

Landfills are heaped to the brim with waste. Consumers want to patronize companies with a strong commitment to social responsibility. And, as a small business owner, you’re probably always looking for ways to cut costs and improve your reputation. Going green and using waste in unique ways may be the right solution for all these issues.

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