Where Science Meets Muse

Are you willing to look in the garbage for innovation?

Posted by Plish on June 9, 2009

There's Innovation Gold in That Garbage

There's Innovation Gold in That Garbage

When I was younger, I used to love Spring cleaning.  I’d cruise down the neighborhood streets on my bicycle looking for old stereos, bicycles, cabinets; anything I could convert into something new or use to supplement  something I had. 

Tom Szaky believes innovation is found in the garbage – literally.

He built a multimillion dollar company by taking peoples’ garbage and converting it into something else and selling it.

While commercializing the collection and conversion of garbage is good business, there is a more profound way to look at garbage.

Look at garbage with the intention of learning about human nature. 

Don’t take my word for it.  Try it yourself.

When we start asking questions about garbage – the Who? What? Where? When? Why? and How? about garbage – we learn much about peoples’ needs and wants, their habits and their impulsiveness, their inefficiencies and their efficiencies.  Yes ,we may find product or process opportunities, but more importantly we learn what makes people tick.

If you need some help, use these questions to jump-start your investigative process:

  • What’s NOT in the garbage?  Perhaps there are things that people believe should never be thrown out. Why?
  • How much space is the garbage taking up? Is it bulky or compact? Can that be improved?
  • Are recyclables separate? How can recycling be driven? Why don’t people separate the plastics from paper?
  • Just because something is in the garbage doesn’t mean it didn’t work.  It could have worked perfectly and was meant to be thrown out afterwards. Does it need to be disposable or can it be reusable?
  • What’s broken? Should it be?
  • What does it smell like? What does the smell tell you? 
  • Why are things that seem like they’re usable being thrown out?  What’s replacing it?

Remember that garbage isn’t always found in bins inside and outside homes.  It’s found in offices, the wilderness, on assembly lines, and in cars to name a few.

Where ever garbage is found, it’s telling you something about the people that put it there. When you start questioning you’ll see that it doesn’t just tell you one thing, it often tells you a lot!

 The best part is that the more you learn, the more you’ll know about people, and the better you’ll be at creatively solving problems.


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