It is often the case that when a policy is observed as effective in one city, state or country, other governmental bodies will adopt that policy, or some iteration of it, because they have already had the benefit of witnessing the policy experiment in action. Political scientists call the phenomenon policy diffusion and it usually applies to like units when they share information at conferences and use other traditional means of policy knowledge transfer (i.e cities with cities, states with states, etc.).
But what do they call it when a policy adopted in one major city then spurs the creation of a business and a market solution to an environmental problem in a city 3,000 miles away? I'm not sure there's a name for that yet, but it's exactly what happened in the case of New Hampshire entrepreneur Rian Bedard. After Bedard moved from San Francisco where composting is required by law. Taking what he knew about the San Francisco program, Bedard was inspired to try to bring curbside composting to the Portsmouth, New Hampshire area. And in November, he and a friend started the company EcoMovement.
EcoMovement hauls only their clients’ compostable waste, leaving garbage and recycling to the local hauler, Waste Management. They then take those organics to two local facilities, where they are composted, turned into valuable soil amendments and sold to landscapers and farmers. Restaurants pay based on the amount of waste they produce.
"We try to reduce the rate, because we think it’s unbelievable what most of the companies are charging," Bedard told National Public Radio. "And we want people to be incentivized, not only by the cost savings, but by doing this for the environmental reasons. So we just looked at their overall costs and reduced it by 15 to 20 percent."
The more successful EcoMovement becomes, the less money the local hauler, Waste Management, will make. But company officials maintained that they do not view EcoMovement as competition.
In fact, Waste Management's Bay Area composting program in the Bay Area is essentially what Bedard modeled his New Hampshire business after, with one key difference. Waste Management's massive commercial composting operations in California were a direct result of state and local policy drivers -- the regulatory landscape mandated it.
In EcoMovement's case, there are no laws on the books requiring restaurants to compost and as a result, the startup currently has about 30 businesses under contract for compost removal. But as long as they offer to haul compost for a price point that is less than the previous arrangement, the company will continue to grow, policy drivers or not.
[Disclosure: Timothy Hurst has been a paid writer at Waste Management for other projects but received no compensation for this post.]