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Waste Not
Redirecting Building Waste from Landfill to LEED Projects

To prepare for this year's Sustainable Brands Innovation Open (SBIO) competition, we're catching up with some of our favorite entrepreneurial ventures from competitions past ...

Landfill waste is not something most of us like to think or talk about. While we might do our best to recycle and compost, there is always that black bin where we put things that just can’t be reclaimed — a guilty by-product of consumption. With most landfills comfortably located far from the places where we live and work, once waste leaves our homes and businesses it is out of sight, out of mind.

But as billions of tons of waste continue to pile up each year in landfills around the world, sooner than later we are going to have figure out what to do with the trash after we have already taken it out.

In the U.S. alone, an estimated 251 million tons of consumer solid waste is generated annually but less than a third is recycled or composted. And as much as 40 percent of this waste comes from construction projects, which produce a surplus of unused building materials, according to Earth911.

In 2008, architectural engineer Nathan Benjamin founded PlanetReuse to both capitalize on this “useful” waste and minimize the amount going to landfills by making it easier for consumers to find and use reclaimed building materials. Initially created as an Internet-based material brokerage, the start-up has evolved into a consulting and brokering company focused on matching materials with designers, builders and owners to save projects money, serve LEED efforts and promote sustainability.

According to PlanetReuse, only 20 percent of homeowners are aware of the network of nearly 1,300 reuse centers in the U.S., organizations that accept donations of building materials and resell them to the public at a discounted price. Benjamin partnered with cleantech entrepreneur Willow Lundgren to establish the PlanetReuse Marketplace, which is powered by InvenQuery, a backend inventory system also launched by the duo. The company hopes the undertaking will reduce construction and demolition waste to 30 percent by 2020.

As a finalist in the 2012 Sustainable Brands Innovation Open, PlanetReuse competed with several sustainability-focused start-ups in front of social and sustainability investors, executives from leading companies and top brand consultants.

“Sustainable Brands ’12 was an amazing and enlivening chance to collaborate and make connections with a wide variety of change makers,” said Lundgren. “The SBIO competition helped us fine-tune our pitch with input from several sophisticated minds in the areas of sustainability, branding and communication. All of this helped contribute to our raising $1.1 million of investment last year and winning one of 12 Chase/Living Social grants for $250,000 from a field of 70,000 registered small businesses.”

For more innovative waste-saving initiatives, check out this month's Issue in Focus: #WasteNot.


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