Samuel Zemurray arrived in America in 1891 penniless and unable to speak a full sentence in English. He took manual labour as a fruit peddler, then a banana hauler.
As Zemurray lifted baskets of bananas in the hot sun, he noticed how ripe bananas were being dumped into huge piles and left to rot. They would spoil before they made it to market. It was standard practice in the fruit business.
A ripe banana back then was viewed as garbage. Samuel Zemurray, on the other hand, saw money. A fortune in fact.
The Fish That Ate the Whale: The Life and Times of America’s Banana King is the true life story of how the financially broke but hardworking Sam Zemurray took someone elses garbage and made a fortune from it*.
He saw the ripe bananas left to rot on the docks differently. He saw opportunity where others saw only waste.
Likewise, at construction and demolition sites there is money to be made and fortunes to be built. Some companies make it standard practice to throw away surplus drywall, odd cut lumber, siding scraps, corrogated cardboard and other materials.
Enterprising companies, on the other hand, see cash and a way to help Mother Earth.
According to the Builders’ Guidebook to Reducing, Reusing and Recycling Residential Construction Waste in Wisconsin [PDF], four materials that consistently appear in large amounts as waste at construction and demolition sites are wood, drywall, paper and metals.
These materials can be repurposed into new products and resold for money. The cost to acquire these materials is practically nil. The possibilities are many, as are the economic and ecological benefits.
To be sure, someone out there is the next Samuel Zemurray; a hustler who sees hope in heaps. Someone who will build the next business empire from rubble.
It may even be you.
* You’ll need to read the book to find out how he did it.
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