Scraponomics Episode 88: The Unsung Renewable

Jul 09, 2015, 01:44 PM

“Do you know what my favorite renewable fuel is? An ecosystem for innovation.” — Thomas Friedman, columnist for The New York Times

The term “renewable” is used rather lavishly these days. When you think of renewable energy, you may imagine solar powered airplanes or wind turbines that power entire towns, and you’d be correct. Solar and wind power are great sources of energy, and are gradually becoming less expensive to implement.

However, there’s one renewable resource and energy-saver that is seldom perceived as such; scrap.

It helps if you think about the scene in Back to Future where Doc is fueling the DeLorean from stuff he finds in a trash can. Now, even though there’s a crowbar separation between scrap and trash — one in which people in the industry get offended by when the two terms are commingled, myself included — the concept is the same. But while Doc is using actual trash to fuel the DeLorean in a fictional scene, scrap, on the other hand, has been used to make new products for hundreds of years.

When you’re under the stress of cleaning out your basement or garage, it can be difficult to feel like you’re engaging in a process of something MUCH greater, but you are. The reality is, you’re taking something that’s obsolete in its current form, and by bringing it to a processor like Friedland, you’re helping it begin its journey in becoming something new. The same way solar power converts sunlight into energy, humans help convert scrap material into a large percentage of the things around us like buildings, vehicles, and instruments. The cool thing about scrap, though, is that it can also be used to make art like the sculptures you see in ScrapFest. Whether it’s being re-melted or up-cycled, it’s still renewable.

Scrap may be the unsung renewable, but I challenge you to see it for what it is; a mine above the ground with an eternal shelf-life.

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