26 June 2013 0 Comments

One Man’s Trash…

Part 1 of 2 in a Series on Good Value

The median income in my neighborhood is about $33,000;

Unemployment is at least double that of the rest of Minneapolis;

Roughly one child out of every eight lives in poverty.

So it is not surprising to see my neighbors seeking every opportunity to “make a buck.” One common activity is trolling through the alleys looking for scrap metal that can be sold and recycled. In fact, many residents separate usable metal from the regular trash to help make the job easier.

Setting aside for a moment the issues of injustice that contribute to this economic disparity, the activity of “scrapping” provides an interesting study of how value is created.

• Once a metal part has exhausted its useful life, the owner discards it. By placing it in the alley, the owner makes it available to another person who might see additional value in it. There is no disposal charge to the owner, nor does the item incur the ecological cost of taking space in a land fill.


• The person trolling the alley only picks up items that are known to produce income.  Some metals are not accepted below a minimum weight.  Therefore, while some items would have no value to the original owner, they might for the collector when combined with similar items.


• The metal recycler accepts only the metal that has known value. The value varies depending upon the type of metal and its purity. The recycler pays the collector an amount that enables a profit after operational expenses are paid.  The metal is redeemed, sold and used to make a new product which, in turn, creates additional value.

In each step above, value is created, and the end result is a net increase in value.  Although each party extracts some economic value along the way, the resource itself actually gains value. This happens when a resource is made available to another who understands the resource’s potential and has the means to connect with the next member in the value chain. 

There is also the possibility to destroy value along the way. We’ll take a look at that in the next post (Part 2).

What About You?

  1. Have you “created value” simply by making available to someone a thing that he or she valued more than you?
  2. Has the value you placed on something increased once you learned something new about it or saw it presented differently?
  3. Are there skills or assets held by you or your organization that would be more highly valued in another context?
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