What do Procter & Gamble, Honda of America Manufacturing, Marathon Oil, Worthington Industries, and the City of Columbus Department of Public Utilities all have in common? They are or were members of the Ohio By-Product Synergy Network, a diverse group of companies and other organizations that are finding innovative ways to convert wastes into profits. By matching under-valued waste or by-product streams with potential users, they are reducing operating costs while protecting environmental resources. Potential benefits from the initial opportunities identified include avoidance of about 30,000 tons/yr of waste to landfill and about 230,000 metric tons/yr of CO2, along with about $3.5 million/yr in cost savings. These opportunities will also stimulate economic development and create new jobs by utilizing local resources instead of importing materials from other regions.
The Ohio BPS Network is a collaborative project that was launched in April 2010, under the sponsorship of the United States Business Council for Sustainable Development (US BCSD). The member companies range from giant multi-nationals to small and medium-sized enterprises. The project is co-sponsored by the Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR) and the Mid-Ohio Regional Planning Commission (MORPC), and is managed by the Center for Resilience at The Ohio State University (OSU), which has worked with US BCSD on similar projects in other regions.
To support BPS networks, OSU has developed an innovative tool for material flow optimization called Eco-Flow™, described in a forthcoming article in the Journal of Industrial Ecology. For more information about industrial ecology as a business practice, see http://www.resilience.osu.edu/CFR-site/byproductsynergy.htm.
A variety of waste-to-profit opportunities are being investigated by Ohio BPS members; for example, organic wastes from several companies can become energy sources using a technology called anaerobic digestion that generates biogas. These advances are early signposts of an emerging “green” economy that could potentially replace displace traditional, resource-intensive supply chains. According to David Hanselmann, former Chief of ODNR’s Division of Recycling and Litter Prevention, “This is an exciting time in Ohio for recycling. These businesses recognize that, by managing their waste streams more efficiently, they can save money, create jobs, and simultaneously reduce their environmental footprint by conserving water and reducing their energy consumption. Our job here at the ODNR is to support these types of recycling efforts that will ultimately allows us to reach the goal of 50% recycling for the state.”
Jerry Tinianow, former Director of the MORPC Center for Energy and Environment, agrees. "In an increasingly competitive world, regions that help local businesses avoid waste and needless disposal will gain a competitive advantage. MORPC supports the Ohio By-Product Synergy Network as an important regional amenity that will allow businesses located here to operate more efficiently and with less pollution. Every time the BPS Network links one company's waste to another's feedstock needs, both companies win, and the region as a whole benefits as well."