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Don't burn or toss that kitchen waste, plastic, styrofoam, glass, or "trash"! That's a Gold Mine!



For years, a steady stream of plastic, styrofoam & other "trash" has made its way onto & into landscapes, landfills, waterways, & garbage incinerators. In some developing countries, individuals burn anything they can burn, sending more heat into the atmosphere & toxic air (plastics) into lungs. Nicaraguans & Costa Ricans already recycle styrofoam to use as shelving, containers, & insulation. For years, creative people have turned garbage into art to be sold on the market.

The flow would look like this:

  • Individual walks their plastic or other usable garbage to neighborhood center
  • A neighborhood center employee accepts the item(s) & determines which bin it is to go into
  • Materials in bins of each type of acceptable garbage are cleaned with non-toxic/organic solutions (or UV) & dried (solar drying)
  • Cleaned & dried materials are then selected for product manufacturing
  • Products are manufactured & made available for purchasing
  • Proceeds from sales to be used to pay employee salaries, training costs, establish new production facilities, purchase necessary tools/equipment/forms & liquid glass to protect some products for long life & to pay those who bring their garbage a nominal fee for participating in the program


Types of products:

  • Tables
  • Seating
  • Doors
  • Bathtubs
  • Showers 
  • Flooring
  • Bags
  • Kites
  • Curtains
  • Insulation
  • Packing material
  • Compost (liquid & solid)



  • Ideas for products may be endless. It all depends on whether agencies, officials, & industry can get behind the program to support it's development.
  • There is probable conflict due to the displacement of other industrial manufacturing centers, but, in places like Costa Rica & Nicaragua, this will have a beneficial impact because importation of goods is very expensive and there are few manufacturing centers.
  • Green waste/compostable materials may also be removed from the waste stream to be used by farmers.  According to Climate Justice, (Vancouver, BC): "More than one quarter of waste going to landfill is compostable organic material."

Category of the action

Reducing emissions from waste management

What actions do you propose?

  1. Encourage agencies, industry, non-profit organizations, and environmental leaders to embrace this plan and move forward with creating neighborhood centers where people desire work and income
  2. Agencies, non-profit organizations, and environmental leaders develop policy to address and create infrastructure to implement a zero waste/burn practices
  3. Seek support from the United Nations Environment Programme and other agencies and organizations who struggle with finding waste stream solutions
  4. Monetize the system of waste reduction to garner higher levels of participation
  5. Identify most viable facility sites and build the facilities
  6. Establish training programs for transforming garbage into products
  7. Train community members who desire to work
  8. Develop marketing program and access points (outlets)
  9. Produce popular products and sell them
  10. Make available for sale at very low price points, cleaned and dried materials for anyone who wishes to purchase them
  11. Implement and enforce zero burn policies for agriculture and other waste generated in communities (typically garbage burned by individuals or companies)

Who will take these actions?

Agencies, elected officials, non-profit organizations, environmental groups, community members, farmers, and other change advocates.

Where will these actions be taken?

This is intended to be a decentralized co-op styled collection, processing and manufacturing program. To keep the GHGs as low as possible, this is the only way it can work without negating the benefits of removing garbage from the waste stream and turning it into useful products (transportation and storage of large volumes of materials not required).

Being familiar with how garbage is handled in Central America, I am able to describe how this program may work in both rural and urban communities.

For example, in Costa Rica, individuals burn their garbage on a daily and weekly basis. Instead of burning plastics, styrofoam,  and other garbage that may render useful in creating products, a neighborhood collection, cleaning, and creation facility (CCCF) may be set up to transform garbage into products.

In Nicaragua, instead of tossing garbage out of car and bus windows, individuals can drop off their usable garbage at  neighborhood CCCFs on their way home or to wherever they are going.

In urban and rural areas, compostable materials may be collected before entering the waste stream and delivered to composting stations to create quality green compost for farms. These materials would need to be certified as free of pesticides/toxins before collection.

This project may be replicated around the world and is intended to be implemented as localized/low-tech cooperatives eliminating the need for large scale, expensive, and GHG producing activities.

What are other key benefits?

  • Replace wood for product creation (protect forests and habitat and increase carbon sequestration)
  • Replace concrete for product creation (reducing GHGs)
  • Cut down on need for incineration and landfills by diverting waste away from waste stream before it enters the waste stream
  • Remove plastic garbage from landscapes, waterways, oceans
  • Remove toxic air from neighborhoods (cut down on cancer & other diseases resulting from breathing in burned plastic et al.)
  • Creates jobs and more money circulating in local economies
  • Localized/small scale operations eliminates need for large scale operations and related costs of management
  • Increases pollution awareness in a positive way
  • Replicable anywhere garbage and human resources exist

How much will emissions be reduced or sequestered vs. business as usual levels?

According to Climate Justice, the Vancuver BC area alone could achieve these goals:
• By 2020, reduced generation and more aggressive recycling and composting lead to 4.9 million tonnes CO2e savings by displacing organics from disposal and reducing the need for energy-intensive extraction and processing activities.
• By 2040 this rises to 6.2 million tonnes.

According to the World Bank, Greenhouse Gas Emisisons (CO 2, CH 4, N 2 O) (MtCO 2 e) in China: 3,650; Brazil: 659; and India 1,201.

N.B. GHG reduction rates from eliminating rural practice of burning waste at residences or other sites by individuals before waste enters the stream is not readily apparent.

In addition, an aggressive zero-burn policy for agriculture may be implemented - Central American farmers (probably others too) burn cane, rice & other crops post harvest.

Total reduction: I don't know but I think it is in the Gigaton range.

What are the proposal’s costs?

All costs noted are US Dollars

  • Cost of building each facility may range from $6,000 to $10,000 depending on location
  • Cost of training may range from $10,000 to $50,000 depending on how many facilities are implemented in the initial phase (then product sales will pay for training)
  • Cost of manufacturing depends on number of employees required, may range from $20,000 to $70,000
  • Cost of equipment/tools/solutions/liquid glass TBD

If fifty facilities are built:

  • 10 in Costa Rica
  • 10 in Nicargaua
  • 10 in El Salvador
  • 10 in China
  • 10 in India
  • costs (not including equipment/tools/solutions/liquid glass) may range from $1,800,000 to $6,500,000.

N.B. These costs may be reduced considerably depending upon the ingenuity and resourcefulness of stakeholders.

Time line

2014 and into the future.

Related proposals

Zero Construction Renovation Demolition Waste to Landfill by 2030

Waste Train

CCTV Repurposed Materials: Transforming waste to usable products

Garbage art images

Hubbard, B. The Ecologist How to… make recycling pay 2012

Liquid Glass Shield - Welcome to a revolution in protection

Milburn, T. Recycling Revolution McMinnville company turns trash into useful products 2005

Pop, R. Turning trash into usable products 2009


Full References:

Avi credit to: Wikimedia Commons user Jakub Jankiewicz: Earth recycle.svg

Bühner, M. Know the Flow: Sharing Experince for Sustainability & Productivity Burn or Bury? Analyzing Waste Management Options in Detail Nov 5, 2012

Johnke, B. (reviewed by IPCC/OECD/IEA, US, USEPA) Good Practice Guidance and Uncertainty Managament in National Greenhouse Gas Inventories Revised Emissions from Waste Incineration 1996 p. 455-468

Lee, M.; Legg, R.; Maxwell, S.; Rees, W. Climate Justice Closing the Loop Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Creating Green Jobs Through Zero Waste in BC Mar 2013 Office/2013/03/CCPA-BC-Zero-Waste-SUMMARY.pdf

Supervisor’s Office, Angeles National Forest Green-waste Composting Standard Operating Procedure June 2010

The Green Schools Alliance Eight NYC Public Schools Compost and Reduce Volume of Cafeteria Garbage by 85%

Trois, C. & Jagath, R. 2011 Sustained Carbon Emissions Reductions through Zero WasteStrategies for South African Municipalities, Integrated Waste Management - Volume II,

United Nations Environment Programme Converting Waste Plastic into a Resource 2009 Assessment Guidelines