Scraponomics Episode 146: The folks in Silicon Valley aren't the only ones changing the world

Aug 31, 2016, 01:02 PM

“There’s a way to do it better - find it.” — Thomas Edison

I had the privilege of joining a panel discussion on behalf of the Institute of Scrap Recycling Industries at an event in Detroit last week. The event was put on by ARPA-e, which stands for the Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.

What a cool experience! Most of the presentations were by professors who have developed various technologies and machines for sorting scrap material better. Some of them even have prototypes made.

Our roles as panelists were to look at the costs involved with the inventions. One of the presenters may say something like, We project this machine to cost X thousand dollars to build. The issue is that the world doesn’t occur in a vacuum, so we were explaining to the presenters that building the machinery isn’t the only cost. You have to think about the labor involved, the electricity involved to make the thing run, and of course, maintenance costs. For example, we had our baler go down about a month ago and had to spend a lot of money to get it running again. It’s things like that that you have to take into account as a business if you’re going to implement any new machinery.

Overall, though, the display of technological advancement in these projects is amazing. Lasers that can detect and separate different aluminum alloys. Micro scales that can detect the weight of the smallest bits of copper and aluminum, and sort them accordingly. We’re talking about some really innovative stuff that’s going on, and it feels like it’s just the beginning. Personally, I’m all for it!

Let’s see just how far the rabbit hole goes.

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