Best of By-Products 2020: Turn Your Waste Into Sustainable Cash Cows | Unwrapping the Supply Chain

In a previous posts, I encouraged businesses to take action to reduce waste in their supply chain. A big part of the waste is by products. Those are products that are made during production that are seen as low value or no value at all. Nonetheless, some geniuses have found value in what was already created and made “cash cows” out of it.

How can I do that?

This idea came about while my friend decided to stock up on vaseline (not commonly sold in France). While she was happily buying the cheap wax, even cheap in Waitrose, i remember questioning the origin of the product. Petroleum jelly sounded like an interesting name to say the least. A quick search afterwards had me starstruck, this wax was created out of a crude oil rig built up. A chemist saw his colleagues struggle with the built up while they enjoyed the protective benefits of the wax and he decided to built Vaseline, a very profitable business.

Look at your by-products, what you discard or what you buy only a part of. Try and find a value they could bring to an existing product, a market gap or a customer pain point. You can also work with other industries’ by-products to fill a gap you need. Perhaps you are using a lot of wood and wood dust is being produced or wood chips. Selling those for insulation or creating your own insulation material can be a great money making business and will extend the life of the raw material, increasing their output.

Wood by-product

Where can this lead me?

A cash cow in marketing is a low investment and high cash generating product, a good combination to make money.

Milk these products as much as possible without killing the cow

The low investment can be due to the existence of that product already in your operations. I often take the example of eggs for this. Many ingredients list mention egg whites or egg yolks in the production. By selling or using the other part of the egg and even the egg shells you can improve your revenue without too much research or diversifying your product portfolio and business. Some investment will be necessary to get the product working and for your market to hear about it nonetheless the raw materials are virtually free, it could even reduce your waste disposal costs and improve your audits.

Food waste can be turned into fertiliser for instance. Your general waste can be full of treasures or eve what you currently pay to be recycled could generate you some revenue while making the most output out of your input and increasing your efficiency

A list of great products/ business ideas that were once by-products:

Vaseline – Petroleum Jelly by product of crude oil refining

Ford Charcoal company – charcoal briquettes. Henry Ford famously invented that by using the wood scraps of the manufacturing process.

Pinatex – a leather alternative made of pineapple leaves

CWL – leather alternative by Veja made out of agricultural corn waste

Food waste have inspired many such as Renewal mill a tofu manufacturing by-product Yappah using chicken trims to make crisps, ugly fruits with Wtrmln Wtr, Barnana from non-industry standards bananas, Rejuce.

Animal blood dried-freezed bricks – a great alternative to brick and mortar especially for remote communities

Mycocomposite – Insulation material made from rotting mushrooms

Whey protein – a by-product of cheese making is now the most common protein powder base

Palm kernel oil – after extracting the pulp oil of the fruits of the palm tree the kernels are left and can be used for producing oil improving the yield of the crop

Cocopallet – pallets made out of coconut husks after all other parts of the coconut have been used instead of using timber pallets

There are so many great ideas that can come from your by-product, whether it is to improve your finances, to lower your waste or diversify your product range with low-investment it is worth looking into. If you have been looking for a while and cannot see it, it can be beneficial to do a waste audit by an external team or body that is new to the topic, their fresh mind can bring plenty of ideas!


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