Backing from large organizations with additional resources gets this reusable scrap materials marketplace rolling and finds alternative uses that may not have been considered or thought feasible in the past. This is a very innovative program that has great collaboration with partner companies.
The United States Materials Marketplace is a project from the US Business Council for Sustainable Development, World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and Corporate Eco Forum to scale up business-to-business materials reuse across the United States, supporting the shift to a circular, closed-loop economy. Using a cloud-based software platform, Materials Marketplace participants work with resource experts to reuse or exchange unwanted materials, from textile scraps to hydrochloric acid to offspec wood flooring.
The three business organizations were seeking ways to help their member companies’ shift from traditional linear waste flow systems to approaches that identify new circular uses for the broad range of materials flowing through businesses and cities worldwide. Such approaches would be instrumental in helping companies identify hot spots in their material flows where reuse is impossible and redesign may be necessary to achieve true circularity.
The idea for a pilot project originated at a Corporate Eco Forum event in June 2014 that brought together leading thinkers and actors who were focused on making circular business processes a reality. The project received early and enthusiastic support from General Motors and Nike. After several months of recruitment, 23 of the corporate members joined the pilot. These companies come from a diverse mix of sectors that include cement, primary metal, chemicals, and consumer products.
The key to the Materials Marketplace is a secure cloud-based software platform where project members share materials data, are guided to potential connection by the project team, can negotiate trades, and be made aware of obstacles. The platform allows companies to brainstorm new supply chain pathways for reusing ubiquitous materials such as plastics, chemicals, and wasted transportation and logistics space. The Corporate Eco Forum and the World BCSD’s Global Network of 65 national business councils offers a path to scale the marketplace system. It could also be linked globally through a cooperative structure that would allow for national ownership and responsibility for each marketplace as well as the ability to share results and outcomes with all other co-op countries.
Initial results from the pilot, which ran from June to August 2015, include 23 participating companies, 78 facilities engaged, 150 materials — 2.4 million tons total — uploaded to the marketplace, 59 materials being sought, 68 recommended matches and 19 transactions in development, with another 49 possibilities that were still pending action at the close of the pilot. The project is now an ongoing initiative.
As of October 31, 2015, a total of 150 materials were available in the Marketplace pilot project, totaling 2.4 million tons per year of underutilized materials. Of this total, members were pursuing transactions involving more than 2 million tons. This figure demonstrates a tremendous opportunity for environmental, social, and economic improvement, the US Business Council for Sustainable Development says. Chemicals, packaging, and metals are the top three material categories identified by the 23 participants in the project to date. The marketplace also includes more than 50 wish list entries, which are materials that project participants are seeking from other project participants.
Results from the pilot lay the groundwork for significant expansion, according to the council. The project has been formally launched as an ongoing initiative by the US BCSD, WBCSD and CEF, which will be inviting external companies to join the effort going forward. The project team’s goal is to have more than 100 companies participating by the end of 2016.