Group encourages trash-to-treasure swaps

Running a business or an organization eventually means accumulating a mass of old equipment and unused office supplies.

But what do business owners do with all the materials and equipment when they are ready to get rid of it? A program called NevadaMax short for the Washoe County Materials Exchange Network is a free service for area businesses and non-profit organizations to trade their unwanted materials to other entities that may want to use them.

"People think a lot of the stuff they throw out has no value, but it does," said Peter Johnsen, pollution prevention projects manager for the Business Environmental Program, which partners with the Nevada Division of Environmental Protection and the Nevada Small Business Development Center to run NevadaMax.

Established in 1988, the groups provide assistance on environmental issues such as waste reduction and pollution prevention to businesses and non-profit organizations and helps them comply with state environmental laws.

The groups are entirely financed by grants.

A material-exchange network in northern Nevada was started under the group Environmental Leaders in 1995, but it later disbanded.

Washoe County in turn contacted the Business Environmental Program two years ago to reorganize and oversee the project, said Kevin Dick, director of the program.

"Washoe County came to us because of our history in providing environmental assistance in the business community," Dick said.

The program provides businesses and other organizations the opportunity to post items they wish to dispose on its website, www.nevadamax.org.

Businesses have the option of selling materials for a fee or providing them free of charge to potential customers.

Other businesses can search the site for items they need.

The groups were able to start the Web site with the help of the California Integrated Waste Management Board, which ran a similar site in that state called Cal-Max.

"Because of our connections with that program, they were generous enough to provide us with the website coding, and we were able to retool it for our site," Dick said.

Once businesses decide to exchange materials, they are responsible for making their own arrangements for pickup or delivery of materials.

The Business Environmental Program and its partners do not take part in the process, nor do they administer a fee for using the service.

"We just facilitate the transaction between the businesses," Johnsen said.

A vast number of materials can be exchanged including paper, organic material such compost and manure, glass, plastics, paints, machinery, electronic equipment and computers and construction materials.

The only material that cannot be exchanged be used is hazardous waste.

However, the Business will provide information on how organizations can dispose of hazardous wastes.

Johnsen hopes a chemical exchange program someday will be implemented, but he pointed out that idea is still far from reality.

Still, Johnsen said NevadaMax has helped divert material out of landfills and reduced the amount of landfill space being filled.

The Web site is intended solely for businesses, and non-profit organizations such as churches and homeowners associations.

It reaches much of Nevada as well as neighboring Nevada counties.

In the future, the program may try to expand into other neighboring states, but such a move may be impractical because of the difficulty of traveling distances to exchange items.

Among some of the businesses that have used the site are Shred-It, a document shredding company in Reno, and Trex Co., a non-wood deck building business in Fernley.

Luke said the program has proven to be very successful.

"Businesses that have used it are pretty excited about it," Luke said.

"When more businesses learn about NevadaMax,it will help."

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