Take a waste material and turn it into something that can be used or turned into new products

Major variations

For information about creating new products from the processed materials, see “Product Development” and “Product Manufacturing”

Potential impacts

  • Use of waste that would otherwise cause litter or go to landfill. 
  • Reduce energy usage, by bringing materials back into use and/or by reducing transport (enabling new products to be made from waste materials collected locally)
  • Raising public awareness of recycling and environmental issues; demonstrating that waste can be worth something can change people’s behaviour.


  • If you get the model right, there is the potential to earn revenue from waste products while having considerable positive impacts – an attractive proposition.


  • There are a number of different steps in the chain which must all be worked on: from developing reliable sources of waste, to technical challenges of small-scale recycling, to marketing and attracting customers to ensure there is a market for what is produced. 
  • Machinery for small-scale recycling is not widely available commercially; there are many open source designs available online but these are often at a relatively low level of design maturity and may not be suitable for commercial use. Be prepared to spend considerable development time on the machinery and processing equipment.  

Business model canvas

Key partners

  • Those who create, have, or collect waste – including industry, municipalities, informal sector waste collectors
  • Open source communities dedicated to designing equipment for recycling
  • Governments & NGOs who want to support recycling and local industry

Key activities

  • Collecting waste
  • Processing waste (may include disassembly)
  • Finding markets for recycled materials

Key resources

  • Technical expertise
  • A source of waste material
  • Equipment for recycling

Value propositions

  • Reduce waste disposal costs or improve CSR for industrial waste producers
  • Offer reclaimed or recycled materials as inputs to other production processes – competing on cost, quality or availability with virgin inputs
  • Reclaimed or recycled materials as a value-added offering

Customer relationships

  • Long term relationships with repeat customers if selling materials to industrial users
  • Consumer sales may be more transactional


  • Build personal relationships with potential commercial users
  • Sell through resellers or wholesalers
  • Marketplaces

Customer segments

  • Industrial waste producers who need help to get rid of it
  • Local industries or artisans who need access to raw materials or reclaimed components
  • Consumers who attach value to products being made from recycled materials  

Cost structure

  • Waste collection
  • Waste processing (sorting, cleaning, disassembly etc)
  • Machinery used for waste processing (may include development time)
  • Inventory storage costs (for waste as well as processed materials) 
  • Costs associated with finding and retaining customers

Revenue streams

  • Turn waste into items or materials that can be used by others and sell it 
  • Charge those who need to get rid of waste, to turn it into something useful 
  • Use waste or reclaimed materials to create new products and sell those.

Complementary models

Selling materials that others can use to make products​
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