The other day I was listening to the Freakonomics Podcast and a program called “Weird Recycling”. The short episode spoke of several examples of organizations repurposing otherwise unwanted materials.

The first example was of the delicacy of chicken feet (“chicken paws” in industry vernacular). Carlos Ayala is the Vice President of International at Perdue Farms, and he claims that without exporting chicken paws to China, his American-based company would struggle to be profitable. Instead, they cannot keep up with demand. One man’s trash is another man’s treasure, indeed! (For the record, Carlos himself considers chicken feet a delicacy and enjoys them)

MedWish International is a non-profit whose innovative recycling can help human feet (and other body parts) overseas. They distribute medical waste, including such items as mislabeled medical supplies and expired tongue depressors, to developing countries that would otherwise have to go without.

The third example was of TerraPower, a nuclear-energy firm that actually reuses nuclear waste as fuel.

Each of these stories certainly lives up to its label of “weird recycling”. And although Perdue Farms and TerraPower clearly see financial benefits from their innovative approach, there is a broader environmental impact as well.

While individuals are generally well aware of the importance of recycling at a household level, businesses would also do well to consider how they can produce less waste. Although Purdue Farms had to take on a large initial investment to set their chicken paw export line of business in place, it has paid off significantly.

What sort of changes could you make in your home or organization to boost recycling or reuse? Sometimes it just takes a little “thinking outside the coop”.