Turn Trash to Treasure with Online Swapping

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It's undeniable that the recession has created a more conscious consumer. Coming off a binge of consumption, more people are simplifying their lives and looking for new ways to save money. The age-old practice of bartering has recently seen resurgence online where people are trading everything from books, to cars, to manual labor.

"Swapping is a very natural behavior that occurs in all of our everyday lives, traditionally with our family and friends offline," says Jeff Bennett, CEO of the one million-member online trading site Swaptree.com. "With the web becoming an increasingly social place, we're now seeing a real emergence online."

Not only does virtual swapping create a massive marketplace where people can save money, there are also some serious environmental benefits to reusing goods.

To date, swaptree members have made 1.6 million trades, reducing the carbon footprint by 9.3 million pounds.

"We have a core group of members who are fully committed to saving the world and that's their main reason for swapping," Bennett says. "But even the people who didn't initially have the environment in mind, get behind the idea that they're helping the planet too."

Bartering sites like swaptree and "trade anything, pay nothing" U-Exchange.com are pretty simple to use. Members can browse trades or search for specific products, as well as list items to be swapped and find items to swap with.

A company that took a slightly different approach to the online bartering game, RecycleMatch is an online market for transforming commercial waste into value--turning trash into treasure. They provide a solution to reduce costs and environmental impact by converting waste streams from one company into useful materials for another company. By uncovering hidden value, RecycleMatch creates new cost savings and potential revenues for all parties while enabling supply chain solutions that can benefit the environment and sustainability initiatives.

As a small-business owner, you can save money and leverage this movement by assessing the waste your business creates and the equipment you no longer need. By making your stuff available to the massive online swapping marketplace, you can save money and the planet.

One company did just that: a paint roller manufacturing plant in Wisconsin was looking for a way to recycle their mixed polyester waste--a byproduct of their manufacturing process. The company was generating about 40 600-pound bales of this stuff every week. RecycleMatch matched the manufacturing waste with a company that produces environmentally-friendly materials that are used in the automotive and construction industries. Now what used to end up in landfills is going to good use.  

What do you think about online swapping? Do you participate in it now or can you see yourself starting soon?

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