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Four Lessons in Creative Repurposing

Cargill Meat Solutions isn't the first business to find gold in the Dumpster. Four object lessons in creative repurposing.

Four Lessons in Creative Repurposing

Plant Food

Trash: Worms produce their body weight in waste every 24 hours.
Salvage: Terracycle converts organic garbage destined for landfills into environmentally friendly liquid plant food (from worm poop).
Cash: Terracycle is now sold in Wal-Mart, Home Depot, and Whole Foods, and expects to generate $15 million in revenue in 2009.

Vintage Clothing

Trash: Americans throw away 21 billion pounds of clothing and fabrics each year.
Salvage: Some 2.5 billion pounds of those clothes end up in resale shops such as Savers, the largest private vintage emporium, with 210 stores.
Cash: The industry reported a 35% sales boost in 2008. Vintage is trendy too: Supermodel Agyness Deyn is known for her "proper mad" outfits.

Rubber Flooring

Trash: More than 290 million tires are scrapped each year in the United States.
Salvage: Diamond Safety Concepts buys finely ground used tires and then makes and sells playground covers and athletic fields.
Cash: Crumb rubber sells for $700 per ton, and Diamond Safety Concepts experienced a 20% sales bump in 2008.

Pringles Potato Chips

Trash: During the usual chip-making process, some bits of the spud are discarded due to size.
Salvage: Procter & Gamble's Pringles convert the whole tater into dehydrated potato flakes to form a dough that's rolled and cut into chips.
Cash: Pringles is a billion-dollar-plus brand that saw double-digit sales growth in the third quarter of 2008.

A version of this article appeared in the February 2009 issue of Fast Company magazine.