Virginia group helps industries, businesses find viable options for recycling

One company's trash may be another's treasure.

Sep. 23—One company's trash may be another's treasure.

That's the idea behind a new partnership, formed by the Virginia Manufacturers Association; the Virginia Center for Innovative Technology; and a Richmond company, Environmental Solutions Inc., that seeks to turn waste into wealth.

The three announced yesterday that they have formed the Virginia By-Products Group, or VBG, with the goal of helping Virginia industries and businesses find better ways to recycle waste materials such as sludge, wood, ashes, scrap metals, chemicals, peanut shells and Styrofoam.

VBG is establishing a clearinghouse where companies can find potential users of those materials. A pilot program is under way, and the group plans to set up a Web site next year where companies can post descriptions of the waste they generate and find viable options for recycling it.

The founders expect the network to grow on its own, helping more companies improve their bottom line while also diverting waste from landfills.

"This is not just a manufacturing initiative. Any industry can participate in this," said Joe Croce, the manufacturing group's vice president. Group members were the driving force behind the program, he said.

The Environmental Protection Agency and the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality have endorsed VBG.

Every business produces waste materials that usually end up in a landfill or incinerator. But much of that material could be used in other affordable ways, even creating profitable ventures, said Brenda P. Robinson, president of Environmental Solutions Inc., a 15-year-old environmental-technology company that has worked with industries to develop environmentally friendly strategies.

"It is really all about looking at waste as potential raw materials," Robinson said. Environmental Solutions, for example, was able to create a spinoff company that uses waste ash to make concrete for construction.

Robinson said 500 million computers are expected to be discarded in the United States through 2007, but only 10 percent are being recycled. The market for recycled computers and components is potentially much larger, she said.

Environmental Solutions' role in VBG will be to take the information provided by companies about their waste streams and suggest ways to convert it into renewable raw materials.

The Virginia Center for Innovative Technology, a state-chartered, nonprofit corporation that leads the state's technology-based economic-development initiatives, is assisting with the technology for VBG.

Waste-exchange programs have been operating in other states for some time, but most of those have focused heavily on the supply side. The founders of VBG said it will be far more aggressive than other programs and will put equally heavy emphasis on the demand side of waste recycling.

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