Zero Waste - Business Style
What does it take for a business to go ‘Zero Waste’? Here’s the answer in nine clear steps. The steps are from General Motor’s document ‘The Business Case for Zero Waste.’ Businesses of any size can benefit from following them.
1) Track Waste Data: You need to know what waste you are making, in order to find solutions to make it go away. At Proctor and Gamble, to qualify for ‘Zero Manufacturing Waste to Landfill’ status, sites must have three months of data entered into their eGreen electronic tracking program demonstrating that they are not sending any hazardous or non-hazardous waste to landfill or incineration without energy recovery.
2) Define Zero Waste: There is no current industry standard for the term zero waste, and definitions can vary across companies. According to the Zero Waste International Alliance, businesses that achieve more than 90 percent diversion of waste from landfills and incinerators are considered acceptable in achieving zero waste.
Many businesses use the term ‘Zero Waste to Landfill’ because waste-to-energy can fit within that term.
3) Prioritize Waste Reduction Activities: To achieve zero waste, businesses should follow the waste reduction hierarchy, reduce first, then reuse and recycle. For example, by following this path, Mars Petcare sites in Peterborough and Melton, U.K., achieved their zero waste to landfill target well ahead of their 2015 goal. Waste from both sites is reused, recycled or used as fuel on site.
4) Engage Employees and Build a Sustainability Culture: Zero waste isn’t just for the manufacturing floor, it’s for the offices and lunchrooms too! At Nestle, they run campaigns to encourage employees to reduce food waste in canteens and factories. At their headquarters, for example, an awareness-raising campaign resulted in a 30% reduction in food waste.
5) Strengthen Supplier Partnerships: Waste reduction happens best when suppliers are committed to products being used for their intended purpose. At General Mills, they worked with their supply chain to establish new systems to more effectively capture food for donation, rather than composting it or sending it to the landfill. In 2012, they donated more than 10,000 tonnes of food to charitable organizations, including surplus ingredients and over-runs of products with seasonal or promotional packaging.
6) Resolve Regulatory Challenges: Sometimes the roadblock to reducing waste is red tape, not lack of innovation or funds. Unilever has committed to not only zero manufacturing waste to landfill, but also to zero packaging to landfill once it reaches the consumer. They are working to increase their capacity to engage with governments and other stakeholders to find the best policy solutions to drive up recycling rates, which may vary from country to country. They have appointed an advocacy manager to encourage change in government waste and recycling policy and to engage in public debate about this issue.
7) Achieve Landfill Free: It’s nice to be able to say that the list of zero waste companies is growing steadily. The latest in the news is MillerCoors Trenton brewery which has recently become the company’s first landfill-free facility, and the world’s first zero waste mega-brewery.
8) Improve Efforts: There’s always room for improvement, right? Check out Frito Lay’s website for a chronological list of their continuing steps to minimize waste.
9) Share Best Practices: Industry has quickly found that zero waste is done better together. Competing companies often rely on similar supply chains...and they all need those suppliers to buy into their zero waste goals! In the US, both the vehicle industry and the food industry have created their own waste reduction alliance groups.