The ripple effect of the housing crisis is sending untold tons of valuable goods and materials to landfills. Opportunities abound for eco entrepreneurs.
Southern California is one of the epicenters of the foreclosure crisis and mortgage meltdown. Thousands of families are being forced out of their homes or else they’re just walking away. As tragic as it is for the families who once called these houses homes, it often leaves a tremendous mess for the banks to clean up.
So they pay cleanup crews to “trash out” the vacant houses and haul everything to the local landfill: furniture, computers, clothing, toys, and televisions. Anything that isn’t a part of the structure, much of which is probably no older than the house itself, because it was likely purchased with a home equity line of credit that the family also defaulted on. So there’s real value to be found. In the above video, the trash-out guy says that he’s tried to donate the “trash” to charity but that the charities aren’t reliable and can’t act fast enough. Of course, that’s the nature of a not-for-profit organization. They aren’t too efficient.
Considering the fact that this housing downturn will probably last well through 2011, it presents unique opportunities for green entrepreneurs to capitalize on the meltdown by turning a profit and, in turn, diverting thousands of tons of waste from entering landfills.
We envision an operation that rents cheap warehouse space in strategic locations near current and pending foreclosure areas. One would partner with the trash-out companies and hire teams of low-cost labor to work with them to identify and recover the most valuable items in a highly strategic manner. Much of it can be sold through eBay and Craig’s List. Other items can be Freecycled. As the operation scales and diversifies, one could take over for the trash-out companies and offer banks a green alternative. As the company gains momentum and scale, it could operate more cost-effectively than the non-green competitors because revenue would be generated at both ends, while also saving on the landfill fees.
At the end of the day, the green option wins for everyone: the entrepreneur, the banks, and the environment. The only losers are the homeowners who bought houses they couldn’t afford and the trash-out companies that didn’t realize it was more than trash they were hauling to the landfill. It was their competitive advantage.
P.S. When the housing market recovers, this same company could switch to staging homes with a specialty in green properties.