Diamond Solutions

Four Clean Materials Solutions

The Clean Materials report proposes a set of 4 Clean Materials solutions that work together like the interconnected facets of a diamond, rather than ranked one above the other.

We're already seeing success, led by dozens of innovative businesses, nonprofits, and government initiatives, showing what the Clean Materials future can look like. We offer real-world clean materials across the Pacific Northwest, focused on the four solution categories. Many of these stories highlight how a clean materials system approach can be instrumental to creating and attracting new regional jobs and new industries, helping to strengthen existing industries while offering drastic improvement for the health and well-being of the people and planet.

1. Prevent Waste at All Stages​

Incentivize the redesign of products and supply chains to shrink carbon footprints, eliminate toxic materials, waste less food, and conserve resources.
  • The Pacific Northwest is a hotbed of innovation for strategies to prevent food waste; including Oregon Food Bank, Portland’s Urban Gleaners, Oregon Restaurant and Lodging, and more.  

  • Companies like Williams-Sonoma, Office Max, and Norm Thompson Outfitters worked with Oregon’s DEQ to embrace package redesign, greatly reducing waste.  

  • Buildings and infrastructure are among society’s greatest materials demands; in fact, buildings alone represent 11% of global CO2 emissions. Across the Northwest successful building waste prevention ideas are emerging; Portland is choosing deconstruction (instead of demolition) they’re also embracing ADUs, significantly reducing waste generation; new ideas including pre-fab apartment development are being embraced in the Northwest and a new ‘embodied carbon and construction calculator, developed in partnership between the University of Washington-based Carbon Leadership Forum and 30 building industry leaders, is helping the industry understand how to reduce waste.  

Volunteers at the Oregon Food Bank   |   PC: The Oregon Food Bank

2. Get Longer Life​ and More Use From Products

Deliver more value from products so that we buy less of them, saving both money and preventing waste.
  • The Renewal Workshop has been wildly successful; this Oregon-based company offers renewal and resale services for apparel and textile brands to give another life to merchandise that would otherwise be landfilled.

  • Across the Northwest, tool libraries provide a range of loaned products; Hillsboro offers 265 items in bakeware, toys, musical instruments, party goods, and a host of other categories, as well as more than 350 board games.

  • Portland’s Food Trucks now offer a ‘Go Box’, a reusable plastic container, to reduce disposable food packaging, while other innovators are introducing reusable beer bottles and Zero-waste stores.

  • Repair cafes, where people bring reparable items to events and are assisted by skilled volunteers, have taken root in the Northwest; King County Solid Waste Division has organized over 60 community repair events since 2016.

An event organized by King County Solid Waste Division teaches residents how to repair appliances and electronics.   |   PC: King County

3. Optimize Recycling

Design for recycling, rethink recycling systems, and measure success based on what actually gets recycled. 
  • St. Vincent de Paul of Lane County, Oregon, is a successful and entrepreneurially minded nonprofit that earns about 60% of its revenue through waste diversion and materials management. They’ve been nationally recognized for their mattress recycling facilities that collectively process about 45,000 discarded mattresses a month; Mattresses are tough for landfill operators, making up 1% of the waste stream.

  • Merlin Plastics, Western Canada’s leading processor and marketer of industrial plastics scrap,  have developed and refined their infrastructure to be capable of re-processing the ever-growing varieties of household and industrial plastics, like PE, PP, PET, and HDPE, and are currently accepting material from Recycle BC, Washington, and Oregon.  


PC: St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County, Inc

4. Develop Clean Production and Processing Hubs

Used materials find new life by connecting industry ‘waste’ to resource gaps, and wastewater treatment plants grow into value-generating ‘biorefineries’.
  • Kalundborg, Denmark pioneered an idea called “industrial symbiosis.” Put simply, it connects co-located industries so that one’s “waste” becomes another’s resource. The result: big material-energy-water savings for industry, coupled with important environmental benefits. The Kalundborg Symbiosis is generating $28 million a year in economic value, in a city of just 17,000 people, while reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 600,000 tons/year. 

  • We’re seeing interest and momentum across the PNW; a newly updated, McKinley Paper plant in Port Angeles will manufacture containerboard from 100 percent recycled cardboard, powered by biomass energy cogeneration. 

  • Spokane is exploring a clean manufacturing innovation park, and Seattle’s Fremont Brewing and others are tapping into biomass and bioenergy. 

Industrial Symbiosis in Denmark   |   PC: Kalundborg Symbiosis