Online platform facilitates cross-industry materials use

Signal of change / Online platform facilitates cross-industry materials use

By Gwyneth Marcelo / 27 Apr 2017
In the United States, the Midwestern State of Ohio has developed a cloud-based materials marketplace to facilitate the exchange of industrial materials across industries. Manufacturers post their materials and arrange exchanges with businesses that can use them as inputs. The marketplace project team supports the platform by helping to identify matches in material flows, facilitating exchanges, and then conducting an analysis of the environmental and economic impact after the transaction is complete. This initiative, built collaboratively with input from interdisciplinary experts, helps Ohio’s larger manufacturers, including General Motors, to reach newly adopted zero-waste to landfill commitments and ambitious best-use of materials goals. Ohio is the first state to adopt the program, but there are plans to replicate and scale the partnerships in other states through a public-private partnership between the US Business Council for Sustainable Development and the Environmental Council of the States.

So what?

One of the greatest barriers to the circular economy is the frequency, stability, volume and quality of waste streams that would be used for inputs. This platform allows circular economy solution providers to aggregate waste streams across a range of suppliers, as well as get a sense for what is available on the market, which could influence process design. Some questions remain to be answered once the marketplace begins operation. What if there is no market for your hazardous materials? Who will offer the logistics and who will pay for them? High demand for one material, like scrap steel could allow business to profit from reselling their waste. That could encourage inefficiencies in production and the increased use of non-recyclable natural resources like water. This solution also does not address the issue of household waste streams, including plastics and food, which are some of the more pressing circular economy issues to solve. Ultimately, it’s a promising signal of a zero-waste future, enabling more sustainable business, job creation and profitability through greater efficiency in the US domestic market. At scale, it could lead to large scale transformation of how we do business and create whole new inter-relationships between industries.

Sources

Daniel Kietzer (4 April 2017) “Ohio EPA announces launch of new online materials marketplace.” Available at http://materialsmarketplace.org/news/2017/4/4/ohio-epa-announces-launch-of-new-online-materials-marketplace Ohio Materials Marketplace: https://ohio.materialsmarketplace.org/how-it-works/

What might the implications of this be? What related signals of change have you seen?

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