Monday, January 15, 2007

‘Wastepaper is like a forest. Paper recycles itself, generation after generation.’

I just noticed the remarkable story of Zhang Yin in the NYTimes. Zhang is among the richest women in the world with a personal wealth estimated at $1.5B. An incredible self-made woman, she created this wealth basically by recycling paper.

Her company, Nine Dragons Paper, takes discarded paper materials from the US, ships it to China, where it is then recycled into new corrugated cardboard. The corrugated cardboard is subsequently fashioned into boxes and sold. (And later likely shipped back to the States.)

According to the article, Nine Dragons Paper, has a current market value of $5B, making it China's largest papermaker. But just five years ago, Ms. Zhang and her husband were begging US garbage dumps for their scrap paper! That's a nice CAGR.

The choice quote: “I remember what a man in the business told me back then,” Ms. Zhang said. “He said, ‘Wastepaper is like a forest. Paper recycles itself, generation after generation.’ ”

Not too shabby, not too shabby at all.

Addendum: In my impetuousness to post Ms. Zhang's story, I didn't stop to think why I jumped on the story. Zhang's story is one of entrepreneurship, female entrepreneurship no less, and globalization. But it is also a double-bottom-line clean tech story. God knows how many tons of waste paper Zhang's Nine Dragons Paper removed from our nation's dumps. My mind can't but help drift to thoughts of plastic jugs, discarded carpets, old electronics, trashed cars. How long will it be for an analogous plastics recycler to make the same inroads?