RECYCLING: California Uses Internet to Recycle Waste

Since 1992, the California Integrated Waste Management Board's California Materials Exchange (CalMAX) program has connected the "haves" with the "have nots." In addition, the Internet-based materials exchange program has diverted more than 650,000 tons of materials from California landfills and saved the state more than $5.5 million.

CalMAX is a free service that finds markets for discarded materials such as wood, paint, rubber, metal, glass, durable goods, electronics, organic waste and more. For industries, businesses, schools and nonprofit organizations, CalMAX saves money while conserving energy, resources and landfill space.

The program targets two types of consumers - those who need to discard materials and those who need to find materials.

Those in need of materials can use CalMAX's Internet-based catalog to review lists of available materials. First, a user selects one of the 15 different material categories and chooses a region. The applicant then responds to an ad and negotiates pricing and delivery details with the lister.

After a transaction, the applicant contacts CalMAX staff, informing them as to whether the exchange was successful. By documenting the exchange, CalMAX can justify its free services and continue to receive state funding.

To post listings of materials available, a supplier visits the website and creates a listing by completing the appropriate information and then submitting the listing, which is posted to the website within one business day. An added bonus to the program: within the CalMAX database, donors can specify whether to give materials to a school or nonprofit.

Besides the Internet, CalMAX publishes a quarterly catalog including ads of classified listings as well as feature articles, information on materials and a directory of reuse organizations. However, a person also can find information and articles online.

CalMAX provides assistance for local jurisdictions interested in establishing regional materials exchange programs. This partnership program is designed to introduce CalMAX as a waste diversion option for local business sectors. Promotional assistance is available from CalMAX and includes a catalog bulk purchase program, brochures, bookmarks and a slide presentation to assist jurisdictions with their outreach efforts.

Many businesses have been successful with the CalMAX program. For example, Looney Bins, Sun Valley, Calif., a company that deconstructs Hollywood studio sets, salvages wood, metal, cardboard and plastic. This business owner's efforts earned him CalMAX's 1998 Connection of the Year award for targeting the state's priority materials, such as organic waste and construction and demolition debris.

There is an endless list of uses for these used materials. Some entrepreneurs build modular office furniture from organic and recycled materials. Some companies refurbish old computers and donate them to schools. Technicians recover and reuse precious metals such as silver, gold and platinum from circuit boards. Boys & Girls Clubs use architects' old blueprints as drawing paper.

As landfill costs continue to rise, construction companies are seeking alternative methods to traditional landfill disposal. By using CalMAX, a wide variety of materials from commercial and residential deconstruction projects can be recovered and reused.

For more information or for the CalMAX catalog, call (916) 255-2488. Access CalMAX at calmax