Recycling and competitive advantage

Hello everyone,

some days ago I discovered a report about the exploding prices of recycable waste in German TV. It really surprised me, when I heard that the price for glas, paper, metal or even toxic waste – newly referred to as “second-hand ressources” – has increased up to 100% in the past year due to the increasing demand! 

Apparently companies – at least the German ones –  have recognized that it brings them a competitive advantage, if they recycle waste and use it within their production line and I am quiet happy to see this evolution.  One possibility to use this waste, as mentioned in this report, was to transform it into energy by for example burning it. This provides companies a competitive advantage, because they have an energy source which is cheaper than oil for example and which is unlimited.

By searching more information about this topic, I also discovered a very interesting film entitled “waste = food” and I really appreciated the idea that the question is not how to reduce waste, but how to produce even more waste,  waste which serves as “food” for nature or other industries. This very new way of  adressing ecological production may perhaps be the ultimate solution to the waste problems in our world. If everything we produce, will serve as a natural fertilizer on fields or as a ressource for producing other goods we would perhaps have to close all the waste deposits, our nature would be clean and we could use less environment-destructing oil, gaz or chemical fertilizers. Wouldn’t this be great?

Well, perhaps my vision is a very optimistic one and will never become reality, but despite this, I think that if governments achieve to promote recycling as advantageous in economic terms, even the most environmentally ignorant companies such as Exxon or Gazprom would take off on the road to a cleaner and more sustainable world.

Wish you a great evening and see you tomorrow!



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Posted in industrial ecology
4 comments on “Recycling and competitive advantage
  1. hyagi says:


    Good evening. Possibility that recycling activities create is also one of my concerns. In Japan, recyling used mobile phones by manufacturing companies will soon be obliged to consumers. This treatment has two aspects. One aspect is issue on sustainable development through the efficient utilization of resources. Another aspect is to recyle rare metals. Mobile phones include some rare metals such as Indium, cobalt,palladium. These rare metals are very expensive and prices have been rising sharply due to shortage of supply. This case is also one of examples that recycling provides companies and countries with competitive advantage. This is because companies get possibile to produce high-tech products more cheaply through these measures and ensure the amount of important materials.

    Good evening and see you tomorrow.


  2. sarahhe says:

    Thanks Hiroshi for your comment! 🙂

    In the German report, which I mentionned at the beginning of my post, they have also aborded the topic of recycling rare metals out of mobile phones or televisions. And in fact at the moment it is much cheaper for companies to get these metals by recycling rather then buying new ones. But for how long will this still be the case? Assuming that we are regarding here companies which have to buy electronic waste, I guess that the enourmously increasing prices of “recycable electronic waste” will slow down this trend in the future.

    Another problem, I see in this particular case concerns the toxic ingredients of this type of waste. TVs and mobile phones and especially their screens contain not only rare metals but also toxic chemicals and if you want to extract the rare metals, you will automatically get in touch with the chemicals. And because in most cases men instead of machines are cutting these products into their different components, their health is in danger without adequate protection. This example shows quiet well, I think, that environmental protection and health care must always be looked at simoultaneously. If you start doing something to support the environment, one should in my opinion always question himself, what effects this will have on people and if the “good” environmental effects perhaps are not compensating the health risks of people related to this activity.

    Bye, Sarah

  3. hyagi says:


    Thank you for your reply. Regarding the recyling’s issue, the cost of recylcing is mainly on consumer’s account in Japan, not companies. As a result, there is not a big burden for companies to collect such used mobile phones. I had experiences to dismantle a mobile phone at collage, it takes time but not so difficult. Yes, some components include hazardous chemical substances, but it is only the case that we burn these materials. Therefore, normally there is no danger concerning normal dismantlement of them. In fact, both of Indium and Palladium are one of the pure parts in mobile phones. It is relatively easy to extract them.
    But I agree that we need to pay attention to health of people who are involved in this kind of activities.

    Globally speaking, shortage of rare metal is currently more serious than shortage of oil. This is because lands which contain rare metals are quite limited. I think that high price in rare metals will continue for mid-long term.

    See you tomorrow.


  4. jeremy says:

    What you describe Sarah, is commonly referred to as “industrial ecology”; one company’s waste is another company’s input. Go and google it and see what you come up with 🙂 … it’s becoming big business!

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