Tucked away in the deep, dark corners of big warehouses and laboratories in Chicago’s largest organizations and institutions, there’s a ton of valuable resources and instruments going unused. What happens to these resources? In some cases, the answer is nothing. They collect dust, slowly depreciating in value in a basement store room (or sometimes right in plain sight on a shelf).
In most cases, however, space eventually runs out, and these resources are rerouted to off-site warehouses. Already maxed out on capacity, the unfortunate common next step is to yet again reroute these assets, this time to the landfill.
The problem gets worse: end of life electronic equipment is now the fastest-growing waste stream in the world, and a recent UN report estimates that this e-waste is worth at least $62.5 billion.
In early 2019, Plant Chicago started a pilot with Rheaply, a technology company from Chicago on a mission to address this very issue by connecting organizations to surplus resources and each other before they end up in the landfill. Rheaply is the first technology to wrap sustainability into asset management, bringing a circular economy model to resource management for organizations that desperately need it.
Plant Chicago’s mission is to cultivate local circular economies. It’s our belief that small businesses can have a big impact on driving the transition to a circular economy, but they need support. In the coming year we are piloting a local circular economy network for small businesses, and Rheaply’s surplus asset management platform offers an exciting opportunity to connect to shared resources on a network that now comprises Fortune 1000 and enterprise organizations, NGOs, and academic institutions.
What does this mean for Plant Chicago?
First, it means that economic opportunity will come from “waste” being diverted from the landfill. Several businesses have already benefited from free and cheap laboratory equipment found on Rheaply’s AxM.
Second, it provides a platform to measure and quantify the amount of materials diverted and economic value created. This is especially exciting in the context of the broader circular economy movement, as measuring and quantifying it are one of the movements big challenges.
Finally, small businesses in Plant Chicago’s network can benefit economically just by their use. One business already won $500 through their usage of the platform!