Two unconventional farmers find an unconventional match through the Austin Materials Marketplace
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Aspire Food Group and Eden’s Cove Farm projected to see over $13,000 in savings and value creation

The Austin Materials Marketplace network is made up of over 200 eco-conscious organizations, businesses and entrepreneurs; including Austin’s only commercial scale, food-grade cricket farm: Aspire Food Group. Sustainability has deep roots at Aspire; not only in their drive to reimagine global food systems, but also in how they operate on a day-to-day basis. To this end, Aspire joined the Austin Materials Marketplace to discover higher and better uses for their primary by-products: coconut coir, peat moss, and organic cricket feed.

At Aspire, the crickets have an average lifespan of a little over one month. At the end of this month, there is leftover feed and nesting habitat materials - peat moss and coconut coir. Like many materials we see in the Materials Marketplace program, we quickly recognized the economic and environmental potential in finding a higher and better use for these nutrient-dense materials.

Eden’s Cove Farm, a heritage hog farm focused on building community and sustainability, is one of the participants capturing value from this by-product stream. On an ongoing basis, Eden’s Cove is picking up thousands of pounds of material per month from Aspire Food Group to use as feed for their heritage hogs. So far, the transaction has diverted 7,470lbs from landfill and avoided 5 metric tons of CO2 emissions. Both parties will also save big in 2017 with this ongoing transaction: approximately $12,000 per year in replacement feed costs, and a little over $1,000 per year in landfill disposal and new by-product revenue.

To sweeten the pot a bit more, Eden’s Cove is also using buckets from Austin Bergstrom International Airport - found through the Austin Materials Marketplace - to transport and store the feed. Austin Bergstrom International Airport generates an ongoing supply of these buckets; they typically recycle them, but prefer to find opportunities for the buckets to be reused due to the environmental benefits of reuse over recycling. With three different organizations finding reuse opportunities through this one transaction, this is truly a win-win-win scenario.

Take advantage of our program and create value for your business today by logging into your Marketplace account, browsing what’s available and starting a transaction. Not an Austin Materials Marketplace participant? Joining is easy - get in touch today to learn more.

Apto Solutions and Liquis Inc. find new value through the Austin Materials Marketplace
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Apto Solutions, an ITAD services provider, and Liquis Inc., a facilities decommissioning and asset recovery corporation, joined the Austin Materials Marketplace program to buy and sell inventory that might otherwise end up in a landfill. Because of the environmental benefits of reuse over recycling, Apto and Liquis hoped to find reuse opportunities through the Austin Materials Marketplace program to generate value and improve their environmental footprint. Since November, Apto has used the Marketplace to find new markets for many of the materials they’ve made available so far, with almost every transaction generating value and helping Austin achieve its zero-waste goal.

Take for example Apto’s recent transaction with Liquis for 19 telecommunication vaults - large plastic and metal boxes used to house and route telecommunications equipment underground. Liquis purchased all 19 vaults from Apto to distribute for direct reuse. This transaction created mutual value for both companies. Buying these new and unused vaults through the Marketplace created thousands of dollars in savings for Liquis. For Apto Solutions, the transaction resulted in the creation of additional value and savings by finding a buyer and avoiding additional disposal fees. This transaction also saved around 1.66 metric tons of CO2 and diverted 554 cubic feet from landfill.

As we roll into 2017, we hope to see many more transactions like these that create significant value for program participants, the local economy, and the environment. Login to your Marketplace account now to check out what’s available and start a transaction of your own.

Johnson's Backyard Garden and Ian's Giving Garden exchange drip irrigation tape
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Johnson’s Backyard Garden just completed a transaction to provide 3,000 ft of drip irrigation tape to our youngest (and arguably coolest) Austin Materials Marketplace participant, Ian’s Giving Garden.

Ian McKenna, 11, has started multiple “giving gardens” around town to grow and donate food to children and families in need in the Austin area. His wonderful efforts are fueled in part by grants from the City of Austin Sustainability Office, Katie’s Krops, the Sodexo Foundation, and others; and we hope to connect Ian to more and more materials resources as his work grows and expands.

Great work, Ian!

Feeding Animals: Strange Land Brewery and Bedford Farm connect on Spent Brewery Grain
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The Austin Materials Marketplace’s latest success story comes from Strange Land Brewery and Bedford Farm. The two businesses have started an ongoing relationship to reuse Strange Land Brewery’s spent grain as animal feed at Bedform Farm, diverting a significant amount of organic material from landfill each month.

This is one of the oldest case studies in the book. All around the world, breweries have their spent grain picked up in bulk by farmers, usually at little or no cost. This is a symbiotic exchange because sending spent grain to landfills is expensive, and farmers rely on this low-cost but energy-packed food to keep their meat and dairy prices low. This is also an ancient tradition, with fossil evidence suggesting that as far back as the Neolithic period (2000 B.C.), brewery by-products were being used to feed domesticated animals.

The US EPA also recommends organics recovery through feeding animals, prioritized just below source reduction and feeding people:

“Feeding Animals is the third tier of EPA's Food Recovery Hierarchy. Farmers have been doing this for centuries. With proper and safe handling, anyone can donate food scraps to animals. Food scraps for animals can save farmers and companies money. It is often cheaper to feed animals food scraps rather than having them hauled to a landfill. Companies can also donate extra food to zoos or producers that make animal or pet food. There are many opportunities to feed animals, help the environment and reduce costs.”

Weevil'ed Cornmeal
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One of our more unusual trades to date: yesterday Johnson’s Backyard Garden picked up a pallet’s worth of 50lb bags of cornmeal from The Natural Gardener. Unfortunately for The Natural Gardener, weevils had gotten into the cornmeal and it could no longer be used for its original purpose.

Despite the weevils, the cornmeal could still be useful in certain applications, especially given its nitrogen-rich properties. Johnson's Backyard Garden picked up on this value, and picked up the cornmeal for use around their facilities.

This single transaction diverted ~3000lbs from the landfill, in addition to cutting disposal and purchase costs for both parties.

Spent Grain and T-Tape

Diversity Farms, one of our newer participants, has confidently jumped into the program with both feet! In late July 2015 they completed two transactions, one with Johnson's Backyard Garden for ~500 feet of irrigation tape, and one with (512) Brewing for ~300 lbs of spent grain. The irrigation tape was installed in the garden and fruit tree orchard, and created some good learning experiences with the material in the process, which we hope to share with other program participants down the road.

State of Texas Alliance for Recycling reuses 750 recycling bins from 3M
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This is a trade that really defines the “highest and best use” principle. 3M had 750 gently used desk-side recycling bins available in the marketplace. The State of Texas Alliance for Recycling (STAR) has a fantastic bin grant program, which donates recycling bins to schools across Texas who are trying to start their own recycling programs. You can probably guess what happened next after we put them in touch...

We estimate this single transaction was worth about $5,250 to STAR. And while we’re happy about these materials being reused, we’re especially happy to know that they’ll stay in good use keeping additional materials out of the landfill for a long time to come.

Monitor Stands

[progress_bar label="892lbs Diverted from Landfill" color="#6b5101" percentage="100"] General Motors' Austin Innovation Center uses custom monitor mounts for many of its workstations, meaning in most situations, the stock monitor stand is removed and set aside prior to use. We connected GM and Global Environmental Services to make use of these untouched materials, 892 lbs total.

Miscellaneous Office Furniture and Electronics
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General Motors' Austin Call Center contacted us for assistance in facilitating the reuse or recycling of a significant amount of unneeded office furniture and obsolete electronics. We were able to facilitate a connection between General Motors and Texas Office Products & Supply for the transportation, reuse and recycling of nearly all of GM's materials, about 75 cubic yards total. In addition to landfill diversion, this transaction saved GM ~$600, and estimated resale value for TOPS is ~$3,000. Click here for details on the types of the materials. And as of May 2015, GM has continued to use the program to divert additional office furniture and equipment from the landfill - a great example of global landfill-free objectives aligning with local opportunities and action.

Plastic Chart Holders
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Austin Regional Clinic recently switched to all digital medical records, and contacted us for help in reusing or recycling their now unneeded plastic chart holders. With our facilitation, the Austin Habitat for Humanity Restore was able to take ~250 of these chart holders, and will reuse them in their day-to-day operations. And Central Waste and Recycling was able to take the remainder, approximately 1,000, and will recycle the plastic.

PVC Pipes
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Austin Resource Recovery had 3 barrels of used PVC pipes cut into 2-3 foot lengths for donation to non-profit organizations or individual residents. This was approximately 150lbs of PVC. The Austin Habitat for Humanity Restore picked up this material and reused them for various building projects. We estimate approximately $460 in raw material purchase savings for the Austin Habitat for Humanity Restore from this single transaction.