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Recycling Livelihoods [Entrepreneurship
Posted on October 15, 2015 @ 06:07:00 AM by Paul Meagher

Imagine getting ready for garbage day by sorting your garbage into one of 15 possible garbage categories.

There would be the usual categories of organics, glass, and paper, but within paper, we might have a separate category for books. We might also have a category for wood waste, a category for broken kitchen appliances, a category for broken or unused furniture items, and so on. If you get creative I'm sure you can come up with your own list of 15 categories of garbage.

So each family puts out their garbage presorted into 15 garbage types and then what?

If the garbage is presorted at the household at this level of specificity, then you are creating a (free?) resource for local entrepreneurs who might want to come by and pick it up as part of local recycling-based enterprises.

This idea for waste management was espoused by Bill Mollison, co-founder of Permaculture, in his 1983 lectures. He suggested that waste streams from cities was one of their most valuable outputs and elaborated upon the details of better garbage presorting and the local enterprises that could flow from it. Styrofoam, for example, is a waste stream that many municipalities don't know what to do with but could be a wastestream that a local entrepreneur could find a use for if they have enough quantity.

Many appliances can be fixed easily, polished, and put back into the market. Old doors and furniture might be scraped down and repainted and become servicable again. Organics have lots of uses for local growers and bioenergy production. Books can be used for a bookstore enterprise or compressed into biomass bricks. The categories of waste we set aside would help to dictate the types of recycling-based enterprises we could support through our waste.

In my own experience, one of the most successful local enterprises is the Community Workshop where people drop off their unwanted household items and the mentally challenged sort them and put them out on shelfs and hangers for locals to purchase again. The workshop employs many people and is one of the busiest places in town as many people are addicted to checking it out regularly and some are professionally scouting out treasures they can resell for more. We all have some form of recycling system in our communities but I think there is a next level of innovation that is possible in the recycling industry and the number of livelihoods it could support.

Many "zero waste" cities have innovative ideas for waste management that might already align with this permaculture approach.

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