Trash to Treasure
by Lucy Sutton
The United States Business Council for Sustainable Development (USBCSD) builds synergy for projects that generate economic returns while improving the environment and society. USBCSD creates cross-industry and public-private relationships to solve environmental and social challenges while improving its members’ bottom line. The council provides opportunity for industry, government and other key stakeholders to participate in authentic sustainability projects. Its current projects include innovative energy-efficiency financing, cross-industry synergies, ecosystem service valuation and strategic water planning.
is a partner of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, a global network of 200 international companies with members drawn from 30 countries and 20 major industrial sectors.
Andrew Mangan, co-founder and executive director of the council, received a master’s degree from the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism, where he also attended the School of International Affairs as an International Fellow. Prior to organizing USBCSD, he served as deputy commissioner for natural resources with the Texas General Land Office, worked as a congressional correspondent for the Associated Press and commercially fished in Southeast Alaska. He serves on boards of the Ohio State University Center for Resilience, the University of Texas Environmental Science Institute and the Foundation for Sustainable Development. He shared with Baking & Snack
information about USBCSD and its programs. Baking & Snack: What is the Chicago Waste-to-Profit Network, and how does it work? Andrew Mangan:
The Chicago Waste-to-Profit Network is a byproduct synergy (BPS) project that was developed by USBCSD, the City of Chicago and a number of other local partners in 2006. The name, “Waste to Profit,” originated from the City of Chicago as a way to brand its BPS project.
The BPS process is a collaborative framework that brings together a diverse group of companies to identify undervalued resources, or byproduct streams, from one company to potential users. The process may involve the physical exchange of materials, energy, water and/or byproducts and represents a crucial business opportunity to innovate across industrial processes and organizations by exercising best practices in waste reduction and environmental mitigation.
Turning waste output from one company into a product stream for another company reduces waste, greenhouse gas emissions and the need for virgin-stream materials. Also, great opportunities exist for innovating new products and processes. The process brings clusters of facilities together to create closed-loop systems in which one facility’s waste become another’s raw materials. BPS includes a series of facilitated meetings among participating companies and government agencies to identify synergies, breakdown barriers for synergy projects and implement high-priority projects that show potential for significant economic, environmental and social benefits. Why should baking and snack companies participate in these programs?
There are numerous opportunities for baking and snack companies to benefit from BPS projects. Recycling and beneficial reuse of waste materials is generally not a core business focus of food industry companies, especially smaller companies. By joining a diverse group of companies in a BPS project, new opportunities for materials that are hard to recycle or reuse can be identified that otherwise would not have been possible without the BPS process. These opportunities often arise through learning best practices, understanding new technology or by aggregating materials with other industrial partners to achieve economies of scale.
Two existing synergy projects within the food industry include the use of anaerobic digestion technology to convert organic wastes into energy and compost, and the identification of recycling partners to collect a high variety of recyclables in a “milk run” collection from several small companies who individually did not have economically viable quantities for recycling. I understand there are currently programs in 26 states. What plans are in place for other states to adopt the programs?
Recognizing the strengths of the BPS process, the council has created a BPS license model to accelerate its adoption and implementation while protecting the council’s intellectual property — the BPS process and its brand. The council has been working to pilot a national expansion program that would use service companies as providers of the BPS process. Under the plan, the service company would provide operational resources, manpower and tools to help companies, chambers of commerce, municipalities, governmental departments and agencies implement regional byproduct synergy projects.
Market potential for successfully implementing a network of BPS projects across the US is high, based on growing recognition and understanding of the BPS process and its economic, environmental and societal values. In the past six months, the number of companies, cities and chambers of commerce contacting USBCSD for help in implementing BPS projects in their communities has steadily increased and includes Boston, Milwaukee, Lansing, Detroit, San Francisco, East Bay, Sonoma County, Austin and San Antonio. Other high-priority states include Florida, Ohio, Illinois and New York. How can companies fund these projects?
In the past, projects were initiated with grant funding with the remainder of the funding from project participant fees. Currently, USBCSD is using a novel funding mechanism that will reduce or eliminate the need for grant funding and provide low-cost capital to implement BPS projects. Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing can only be allocated to fund projects that provide the public benefits of reducing energy consumption as well as carbon emissions, and BPS represents one of the most cost-efficient methods to achieve these savings. USBCSD has assembled a core team of partners to develop PACE-funded BPS projects across the US. This is a global initiative. How do businesses in different countries collaborate on these programs?
USBCSD has developed a close relationship with the China Business Council for Sustainable Development (CBCSD). Many member companies of both organizations have facilities in both the US and China. A new partnership with the US and Chinese governments, called the EcoPartnership program, is enabling the US and China business councils to pursue BPS with strong government support. Specific plans include applying the new PACE financing approaches for energy efficiency in commercial and industrial buildings and to support implementation of byproduct synergy.
The EcoPartnership Program was established under the US-China 10-Year Framework on Energy and Environment, approved in Beijing in 2008. The program links stakeholders from the public, private and civic sectors across the US and China to solve environmental and energy challenges and address climate change in ways that promote economic growth.
There are 62 regional BCSD networks globally, and each has its own membership and unique challenges. The consistent focus of each regional network is collaboration to achieve sustainable development objectives. How can the US learn from the success the UK has had with the program?
USBCSD has worked closely with the UK Industrial Symbiosis program and has seen the value in the use of a centralized database to manage the growth of a national network of BPS projects. As a result, USBCSD developed the CIRRUS Database: a robust, web-based BPS database that facilitates participant communication and BPS data entry as well as synergy identification, tracking and reporting. The geographic information system-based (GIS) synergy and materials-mapping capability also allows easy cross-project collaboration opportunities to be identified.
The UK program, called the National Industrial Symbiosis Program (NISP) in an outgrowth of the UK Business Council for Sustainable Development, which learned about BPS from USBCSD. We remain close collaborators and share information across the Atlantic on a regular basis. NISP has seen great success in the UK and Europe in large part because it has received substantial funding from the national government that has brought a very strong return on investment for the UK and for participating companies, now numbering more than 14,000. Read more about Sustainability