The California Materials Exchange: a waste prevention tool you can't do without

by Deborah Orrill

here was a time that "trash it" was an acceptable term. What someone did with their trash was never a topic of concern, let alone conversation. However, in today's world of resource conservation, recycling and reuse, "trash it" should no longer work! If you manage, supervise or are otherwise responsible for materials previously discarded, and you are eager to be environmentally and politically correct, the question then becomes: what do you do? For example, what about those ongoing truckloads of tree trimmings, excess lumber, sign posts, fencing, etc. that you no longer need? Or, what about the concrete that was recently broken up and resides in the corner of the Public Works yard, or back parking lot? These and many more materials in today's marketplace are valuable and wanted materials.

But where do you turn? Who do you contact? The answer is a close as your fingertips: CalMAX. You can access CalMAX via their internet website, or call to order their quarterly catalog.

So, what is CalMAX? The California Materials Exchange (CalMAX) is a free service sponsored by the California Integrated Waste Management Board (CIWMB). It is designed to assist local jurisdictions and businesses with an effective method of diverting discards, surplus, and excess materials previously sent to the landfill.

CalMAX publishes a quarterly catalog and website featuring "Waste-Not Want Ads." The catalog is primarily composed of these classified listings. Listings are divided into "available" and "wanted" categories. With the CalMAX database at your fingertips, you can maximize your time by listing materials, and specify if you want to donate them to a school or nonprofit. Or, you can set a price and negotiate the fee with interested parties. All in all, the goal is to divert materials from local landfills by encouraging and participating in the exchange of materials in your community.

The CalMAX catalog also includes feature articles, special pullout inserts on various types of materials, a directory of reuse organizations and other useful reuse-specific information. CalMAX online services include the electronic database and interactive website at: Listings can be entered online, and are posted to the website within 24 hours. Information and articles available in the quarterly catalog are also available online. CalMAX also provides assistance for local jurisdictions interested in setting up regional materials exchange programs.

So how do you place a listing on CalMAX? Go to the web site and click on "Search," if you are looking for materials, or "Create," if you want to list available materials. The ad will include your name and phone number, email address (if you have one) and a description of the materials you have available, or are in search of. In most instances, materials are listed for free or have a minimal charge. CalMAX suggests that before you place a listing, you may want to review some of the listings, or request a catalog, to get an idea of how the listings are structured.

If you don't have web access, you can submit your request over the phone or by facsimile.

CalMAX follows up postings to determine if you have made a successful exchange, and attempt to quantify the exchange on a quarterly basis. By documenting the successful exchange, CalMAX is able to justify its free services.

So, don't wait a moment longer. Look around the loading dock, warehouse and back parking lot, determine what materials you want to "relocate" and contact CalMAX. The solution is easier than you can imagine.

CalMAX - California Materials Exchange, 8800 Cal Center Drive, MS 23, Sacramento, CA 95826. Phone (916) 255-2488; fax (916) 255-4580;;