With this week’s 70th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States’ entry into World War II, one thing to remember is the sense of shared sacrifice and conservation that quickly became embedded in society. Everyone was part of the effort: scrap rubber was collected to make tires, Americans salvaged steel in any form, and the government encouraged people to mend clothing so textiles could be saved for the war effort.

We lost that sense of conservation during the war, but recycling has picked up during the last 20 years. Now companies are realizing that waste is not an annoying cost of business, but benefits companies as a revenue generator. Electronic waste (e-waste), one of the most toxic forms of waste, is literally becoming a gold mine for companies. Logistics companies like UPS are taking e-waste off of their customers’ hands. And DHL, through its Envirosolutions division, is assisting its customers with everything from processing food waste to helping them separate their garbage. The United Kingdom retailer Nisa-Today’s generates £125,000 (US$200,000) from selling recycled cardboard and shrink wrap. As Oliver Balch explains on Guardian Sustainable Business, DHL is turning the idea of what a courier service is on its head:

The system Envirosolutions designed for Nisa-Today's doesn't rest on rocket science. Like Postman Pat, DHL transports deliveries to their desired locations. Unlike the nation's favorite mailman, it returns with its trucks full, too – of waste.

Our grandparents’ generation embraced conservation during World War II out of a sense of sacrifice, patriotic duty and national pride. With the rising price of commodities and energy, there is no reason why we cannot take those steps once again. But instead of viewing waste diversion, recycling and decreased consumption as a sacrifice, they should be part of our daily routine. We are slowly taking that path again--now waste will end up fueling military ships and aircraft. As Mr. Balch and DHL point out, education is the key; and once these habits are embraced and become part of the daily routine, they become quite simply common sense and normal--and even entertaining, as folks in Naples have proven. We have made much progress, but we still have a long ways to go to accept waste as a resource.

Photo is of a local garbage dump in Insa-dong, Seoul, Korea.

About The Author

Leon Kaye

Leon Kaye is the founder and editor of GreenGoPost.com. Based in California, he is a business writer and consultant. His work is has also appeared on Triple Pundit , The Guardian's Sustainable Business site and has appeared on Inhabitat and Earth911. His focus is making the business case for sustainability and corporate social responsibility. He's pictured here in Qatar, one of the Middle East countries in which he takes a keen interest because of its transformation into a post-oil economy. Other areas of interest include sustainable development in The Balkans, Brazil and Korea. He was a new media journalism fellow at the International Reporting Project, for which he covered child survival in India during February 2013. Contact him at leon@greengopost.com. You can also reach out via Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost). As of October 2013, he now lives and works in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates.