Nothing Rotten in Denmark
One person's rubbish is another's resource--at least in Kalundborg, Denmark, population 20,000. For more than two decades, companies in the seaport town, 75 miles west of Copenhagen, have been passing industrial by-products on to those who can make use of them. For example, Asn‘s Power Station, Denmark's largest power producer, transfers the steam it generates to Kalundborg's heating system. As a result, the city has been able to get rid of 3,500 oil furnaces, which were a significant source of air pollution. The power plant also recycles several other by-products: Desulfurized fly ash goes to the local cement company, and gypsum is sold to a factory that uses it to make wallboard. An oil refinery sends liquid sulfur to a sulfuric acid producer, while surplus yeast from insulin production at the local pharmaceutical manufacturer is used as animal feed. The trade in "waste" is called "industrial symbiosis," and the cooperation has helped save money and the environment.
Lofty Land Grab
Last summer, one of Mexico's largest corporations--the cement company Cemex-purchased 136,000 acres in the northern state of Coahuila and plans to set aside the entire tract as a conservation area. Environmentalists in El Norte are thrilled with the El Carmen Project since the land, which abuts Brewster County in Texas, will act as a corridor for wildlife in the Big Bend region. The joint project between Cemex and the Mexican environmental group the Sierra Madre Association will also help protect local species like the black bear, mountain lion, and mule and white-tailed deer.
In a partnership that bridges continents as well as classes, the maker of the swanky
Mercedes-Benz has teamed up with an organization called Poverty and the Environment
in Amazonia to manufacture eco-friendly car parts. In 1992, UNICEF and DaimlerChrysler (the manufacturer of Mercedes) began working with the group, which is fighting deforestation and poverty in northeast Brazil. The innovative project employs many former subsistence farmers, who often burned forest areas to clear the land for planting. These workers are now turning coconut fibers and natural rubber into seats, headrests, and sun visors. (The coconut meat is sold to food processors.) Nine hundred Brazilian families participate, and monthly incomes have shot up from $36 to $300. With additional natural-fiber processing plants in South Africa and Germany, DaimlerChrysler saves 5 percent on production costs--directly attributable to switching from plastics to natural fibers. Now, if only the forward-thinking automaker would start pushing eco-friendly cars, to go along with its eco-friendly car parts . . .