Meeting of the Minds took a few moments to talk with Herrie Schalekamp about new working relationships between researchers and paratransit operators in South Africa and beyond. Herrie is the ACET Research Officer at the University of Cape Town’s Centre for Transport Studies. In addition to his research, teaching and consulting in the fields of paratransit and public transport reform he is involved in specialised educational programmes for paratransit operators and government officials. Herrie’s activities form part of a broader endeavour to investigate and contribute to improved public transport operations and regulation in Sub-Saharan African cities under ACET – the African Centre of Excellence for Studies in Public and Non-motorised Transport.
Rethinking the Idea of Waste in Detroit
U.S. businesses, entrepreneurs and municipalities are rethinking the concept of “waste” to create competitive advantage beyond the market and pave the way toward a circular economy and a landfill-free future. While this is a national trend, you can find these activities happening right here in Detroit.
Introducing the Reuse Opportunity Collaboratory (ROC) Detroit
ROC Detroit is a groundbreaking new effort led by General Motors, Fairmount Minerals, CXCatalysts, Pure Michigan Business Connect, The Detroit Economic Growth Corporation, and the U.S. Business Council for Sustainable Development (US BCSD) to bring together Detroit industries, small and medium sized businesses, and entrepreneurs to create closed-loop systems in which one company’s waste becomes another company’s raw material.
The program leverages the US BCSD’s collaborative By-Product Synergy methodology – which has been deployed around the world to help businesses reuse materials to their fullest potential – and match it with Detroit’s creative, entrepreneurial spirit to bring positive economic growth and social impact to the city.
How it works
Core to the project is an ongoing facilitated process that helps companies understand each other’s material flows and see opportunities, stimulating collaborative, innovative and business-friendly solutions. To foster strong communication and efficient implementation of material reuse opportunities, an online marketplace will be made available to all participants. Materials wanted and available can be posted, trade barriers addressed and transactions facilitated. The marketplace is confidential and secure and provides a neutral ground to stimulate the creation of innovative waste diversion solutions.
The US BCSD will support match identification by leveraging best practices from our extensive case study library, national network of material reuse projects, technical partners, the Yale Center for Industrial Ecology, the Ohio State University’s Center for Resilience and engineering expertise from the participating companies.
Detroit is synonymous with creativity and innovation
Social entrepreneurs and do-gooders are reshaping the Detroit landscape, and we want to connect them to as many undervalued resources as possible. Let’s look at Veronika Scott as an example. Veronika is the founder and CEO of The Empowerment Plan, a Detroit-based nonprofit organization dedicated to serving the homeless community. As part of its mission, the team hires homeless women from local shelters and train them to become full-time seamstresses. These women then manufacture a coat that transforms into a sleeping bag, which is then given out to homeless individuals living on the streets at no cost.
Insulation is one of the largest expense in the coats’ production, but there was a practical, durable and sustainable solution just around the corner. With the help and recommendations from General Motors, Veronika has been able to use a repurposed scrap sound absorbing material leftover from production of Chevrolet Malibu and Buick Verano sedans as an insulation. This collaborative reuse opportunity created a win-win-win for everyone involved.
Veronika is a fascinating example of the impacts that can be created though rethinking underutilized materials. Imagine hundreds of groups and individuals thinking the same way and you’ll begin to see the full picture of what we’re building with this project.
Good for the community, good for the environment, but also good for business
General Motors thinks of waste as a resource out of place. This underlying philosophy has led to:
- 111 landfill-free facilities worldwide — more than any other automaker.
- Recycling or reusing 84% of its worldwide manufacturing waste.
- Recycling 2.2 million tons of waste in 2013.
- Vehicles that are, on average, 85% recyclable by weight at the end of their useful life.
When waste can’t be fully designed out of a process, businesses can think of waste streams as revenue streams. In the last few years, GM has generated about $1 billion annually through various by-product reuse and recycling activities. When GM started its landfill-free program in the United States, it invested about $10 for every ton of waste reduced. Over time, it has reduced program costs 92 percent and total waste by 62 percent. Leveraging GM’s leadership in the project, we’re hoping to bring similar results to other businesses operating in the Detroit region.
Call to action
The success of ROC-Detroit depends on a diverse and tight-knit network of companies large and small, linking with academia, nonprofit institutions and government agencies who together will create beneficial economic, societal and economic opportunities from Detroit’s underutilized materials. We want you involved. For more information, contact Tess Mateo, at email@example.com.
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Spotlighting innovations in urban sustainability and connected technology
Brownfields are sites that are vacant or underutilized due to environmental contamination, real or imagined. There are brownfields of some kind in virtually every city and town in the U.S., usually related to a gas station, dry cleaner, auto repair shop, car dealership or some other ubiquitous local business that once benefited the community it now burdens with environmental hazards or old buildings.
In addressing this issue, technology has not been effectively deployed to promote redevelopment of these sites and catalyze community revitalization. We find that the question around the use of technology and data in advancing the redevelopment of brownfields is twofold:
How can current and future technology advancements be applied to upgrade existing brownfield modeling tools? And then, how can those modeling tools be used to accelerate transformative, sustainable, and smart redevelopment and community revitalization?
Across the country, urban parks are enjoying a renaissance. Dozens of new parks are being built or restored and cities are being creative about how and where they are located. Space under highways, on old rail infrastructure, reclaimed industrial waterfronts or even landfills are all in play as development pressure on urban land grows along with outdoor recreation needs.
These innovative parks are helping cities face common challenges, from demographic shifts, to global competitiveness to changing climate conditions. Mayors and other city officials are taking a fresh look at parks to improve overall community health and sense of place, strengthen local economies by attracting new investments and creating jobs, help manage storm water run-off, improve air quality, and much more. When we think of city parks holistically, accounting for their full role in communities, they become some of the smartest investments we can make.