TRASH TO CASH: A local Business Model

May 18th, 2014 by CASUDI



We raise cattle, pigs and compost in a way that honors the animals and the land.

Midnight’s Farm: We raise cattle, pigs and compost in a way that honors the animals and the land.

How does one incorporate the Trash to Cash mindset into a working business model, with a local theme?


Making trash, something unwanted, into a desirable resource, is the basic premise behind recycling and re-purposing.

It’s been done successfully many times over, even at enormous scale. Mrs. Zhang Yin, the richest woman entrepreneur in China, did it with waste paper. She imported paper “trash” from the US by the container-load to China, and re-purposed it into usable cardboard packaging material. Her company Nine Dragons Paper Holdings Ltd., is now the largest supplier of packaging material in China.

The following quote of Mrs.Zhang is an inspiration to every small business looking for a trash-to-cash business model.

“Other people saw scrap paper as garbage, but I saw it as a forest of trees,” Zhang told reporters in Hong Kong in a bloomberg article “I had to learn from scratch. At first the business was just my husband and me, and I didn’t speak a word of English.”

Here’s a successful local business model, in the Pacific Northwest.


This is what Midnight’s Farm in the San Juan Islands north of Seattle is doing!





The resulting recycled resource, sold for cash.

The resulting recycled resource, SOLD FOR CASH.

Entrepreneurs are often known for creating resources out of thin air, however the magic here is created by a pretty impressive wood chipping and grinding machine.

I’ll get a video the next time I see this machine in operation so stay tuned and check back.

Here’s how their business model works:


Trash, in this case green trees and branches, which normally costs the property owner money out of pocket to dump, or time to burn (during the 9 months a year when burning is permitted, to stringent regulations I might add).

Midnight’s Farm provides an alternative: haul and dump your green wood trash (for free) year round. This in turn gives them the raw material (free) to make their end product, wood mulch, which people are happy to pay for. How many businesses get their raw materials for free?

The end product is a much sought after garden mulch. The finer variety is twice ground, costs $28/yard, and is quite suitable for flower beds and general top dressing. The single grind is coarser, best used for pathways, and costs $22/yard. Midnight’s Farm will also deliver the material for an additional fee.

Both are superior products to what I have purchased at the local nurseries, and cheaper too. I will be using several trailer loads this summer for my own and for client’s landscaping projects. Adding a layer of mulch in the garden saves time removing weeds (if you do that) but more important it saves water by slowing down evaporation after a rain or your irrigation.

Obviously that chipper/grinder machine is an expensive part of the equation, so how did the business get to a point where they could purchase or lease this monster piece of equipment? My take on this is that at first they rented it to create the piles of product just the way they currently rent (for short intensive use time) the mega “sifter” machine, which sifts the mulch combination field manure from the cattle, making it into an ideal natural fertilizer.

Now they have a catalog of two more salable and in-demand products, all created from another man’s trash! Three resources created locally, which I didn’t have before; one is for mulch, the second is for an all- natural fertilizer, and the third is disposal of my brush & tree trash for free. My other options for green trash disposal is to burn it, under the guidelines of a restrictive burn permit when allowed, or to pay cash to dump it! So taking my green trash to Midnights saves me time and money!

I’ve been looking at other scenarios where one person’s junk is another’s treasure (as the old cliché goes).


Here’s an idea that must have been tried: You have a lawn or a field that needs mowing; the local goat farmer needs to feed his goats; voila! You have GOAT-MOWER.COM!


How have you seen a “trash to cash” business model work in your locale?


4 Responses to “TRASH TO CASH: A local Business Model”

  1. Brian Driggs Says:

    This is what Umair Haque alludes to in his book Nee Capitalist Manifesto. The relevant of supply chains with supply cycles. Think of all the things we use up which could be recycled into new products – and what if sending items back to the manufacturer meant a discounted price on its replacement?

    Neat idea for sure.
    Brian Driggs recently posted…5 Reasons Why We Should All Drive the Same CarMy Profile

  2. CASUDI (Caroline Di Diego) Says:

    This whole mindset becomes more apparent with what we are not able to re-use or re-purpose in our current demolish house project.

    Sheetrock, tar paper, 3-tab roofing material and plywood so nailed that you cant remove it in one piece are the worst. Most of the insulation got re-used in local workshops an garages. All plumbing and wiring was removed really fast and sold for scrap. We are giving away free if you remove it and take it. Windows are accounted for, rafters and interior framing should all be removed by July. We are saving the floor joists 40 of them (2 X 12 X 24′) for another project if we can get them out without damage.

    This all makes me think that there has to be a way to build so that everything can be taken apart and reused. Like the kitchens in Europe which you take with you when your lease is up.

    Great to see you here and as always thanks for your comment Brian.

  3. Christine Lawson Says:

    Did you go to Sidcot School in England? If so, I’ve been looking for you for ages. We have friends in the San Juan islands if that’s where you are. C Haydon

  4. CASUDI (Caroline Di Diego) Says:

    YES, to Sidcot and YES, to the San Juan Islands ~ of all those at school you are the one I am most interested in reconnecting with, top of my list. How fab you found me here, Chris. You’ll find my email in the side bar under my Avatar which hopefully still looks like me:-)

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