Meet 38 year-old Mike Colhour. He runs a successful scrap metal recycling business by bike. He rides around the neighborhood, collecting scrap metal and plastics from dumpsters and from the side of the road.
He’s been doing this for 10-15 years all over Vancouver and Portland. He recycles all kinds of stuff including glass, wire, stereos, toasters, and so on.
Once he fills his custom-made dual trailer system he cashes in his load at Metro Metals Northwest.
He said business is great and he was especially happy that copper currently fetches $3.85/lb. On good days he can make anywhere from $200-300 bucks.
Now that’s what I call a sustainable business.
Although I applaud Mike for carving out a niche, and would never begrudge a man his living, surviving of the scraps of industrialized society is by definition UN-sustainable.
To put it in math dork speak, if the only inputs into a system from generation to generation are the refuse from the previous generation, where some amount of resources were used in whatever process was being accomplished, the overall system is doomed to disintigrating failure (or, more specifically, to reach a limit of zero resources).
The only truly sustainable system is one in which input of energy and resources equals output of energy and resources.
So, basically you are saying we are eating ourselves out of house and home.
This is what I have always suspected…..
what Mike does as a recycler IS sustainable, what we and industry do as buyers is not sustainable. it’s buyers and manufacturers who bring virgin material into the equation as inputs. in other words, if sustainability is a cycle, Mike is doing a third of it, the manufacturers and buyers are the ones acting unsustainably. if society was acting sustainably we would need thousands of Mikes and doing it by bike is as low on the fossil-fuel chain as I can imagine. double high fives to Mike from a fellow bicycle recycler.
HEY GOOD JOB THIS IS YOUR SON