With so much waste in this world and the associated impact on the environment, it is no wonder that many companies are cutting down on theirs. With so much at stake, the less waste we can all produce, the better. Large companies are also finding that limiting their waste is saving them money in the long run, and attracting more customers.
What Is Zero Waste?
When we think about zero waste, we are thinking about exactly that — companies who are committed to zero waste and implementing strategies to reduce their landfill waste to almost zero.
Along with helping the environment and climate, a zero-waste approach is great for the local community and bottom-line profits. Instead of packaging and other waste being thrown into a landfill, any waste is re-purposed and used again. It is a win-win situation.
So, which companies are leading the way?
Top 11 Zero Waste Companies
Everything at Subaru is reused or recycled. In the past 12 years, nothing from Subaru’s manufacturing plants in the US and Japan has gone to waste. Nothing has been deposited in the local landfills. The amazing thing about this is that when they implemented strategies to produce zero waste, they actually started saving almost $2 million annually at one of their US plants.
How does Subaru do this? The push for zero waste came from the employees. As a group, they figured out that up to 96% of all the vehicle components could be recycled. Once they got into the mindset of reducing their waste, the rest was easy.
Toyota is another vehicle manufacturer which figured out that they could reduce their waste, and reuse and recycle their way to becoming a better company. They are also a founding member of the U.S. Zero Waste Building Council.
Toyota has 27 facilities in North America alone which are classed as zero waste, and meet all of the Building Council’s criteria. 96% waste in the landfill equates to over 900 million pounds which would have been thrown out. That is a lot of waste saved.
Ethique is the world’s first beauty brand with zero waste. When the founder discovered how much plastic packaging was thrown away each year, she set out to create a brand which would combat this waste. The result was solid bars of shampoo and conditioner. Instead of a large plastic bottle which was thrown away once empty, there was now no waste at all.
The company is leading the way with beauty products, and more and more companies are following suit.
If you have been Googling ‘zero waste,’ then you may have been using a zero-waste company to do so. A company as big as Google needs to be dedicated to zero waste if they are going to have an impact in this world, and they certainly are.
The focus began in their data centers, and 6 out of 14 have been converted to zero waste. Along with this, Google also recycles and reuses 86% of its non-data center waste. There has also been a big push on composting and reducing organic waste. With the employees on board, the amount of waste is slowly diminishing.
Microsoft is another large company and, with more than 44,000 employees working in their Washington location alone, it is no wonder that they have decided to tackle their waste. They do produce a lot of it, after all. They recently implemented programs to reduce their carbon footprint by keeping 90% of their waste out of the landfills.
They were the first technology-based company in the world to be awarded the zero-waste certification from the Building Council. They have a power management system which reduced their total power usage by 27%. They also instituted a work from home program to help employees cut down on their carbon footprint.
As a company, would you like to save more than $5 million by keeping almost 100% of your waste out of the landfills? Well, that is exactly what Sierra Nevada did. They were certified as a platinum-level zero waste company by the U.S. Zero Waste Council in 2014. So, what did they do?
There are a lot of leftover hops and barley (~150,000 pounds daily) which are sent to local farms to be re-purposed as feed for cattle and other animals. In their California location, more than 5,000 tons of organic waste has been composted and reused. They also use some of this compost in their own fields. Let’s raise a glass to this recycling.
New Belgium Brewing
New Belgium Brewing is another brewing company which is actively reducing its waste. Much like Sierra Nevada, they keep almost 100% of their waste out of the landfill. They are also a certified platinum-level zero waste company.
The waste reduction started with an audit of more than 500 of their waste collection points in their Fort Collins location. After the audit, employees got together to discuss how they could repurpose all of the waste instead of it going to the landfill. This all led to minimal actual waste, and a way to compost all of the organic materials.
Much like beer companies, wine companies produce a lot of organic waste. They also have a lot of water waste and greenhouse gasses. Fetzer has committed to becoming net carbon positive by 2030. There are a number of ways in which they are doing this.
They were the first wine company in California to operate on 100% renewable energy. They also compost their organic matter and reuse their wastewater. By adding worms and microbes to the water, the waste is taken out and what remains is clean water.
Unilever has 240 factories and 400 sites around the world which keep 100% of their non-hazardous waste out of the landfill. Not only has this saved them from having a lot of waste, but it has also saved them over $225 million. Recycling and reusing really does make a big difference.
Along with recycling and reusing, they have committed to making all of their packaging recyclable, reusable, or compostable by 2025. To do this, they are currently creating new technology to make this possible.
Tonle is an ethical and zero-waste fashion brand. They have set out on a mission to reduce fashion waste. Most of the waste associated with fashion comes from the amount of water used to make clothes. Around 2,700 liters can be used to make one t-shirt. The clothes are made in Phnom Penh, where a team of zero-waste workers is using less water, fewer chemicals, and creating recycled paper in the process.
Tonle has also partnered with local organizations which hand-carve reclaimed wood into buttons, belts, zippers, buckles, and more. A weaving group in Cambodia also creates zero-waste textiles from recycled fabrics and scraps.
Procter & Gamble
Procter & Gamble have a mission to eliminate manufacturing waste, which makes up 95% of their total waste. At the moment, 55% of their sites are now zero-waste when it comes to sending waste to the landfill.
In Hungary, production scraps are sent to a local cement company to be incinerated for energy. In China, production waste is composted and used as the soil in local parks. In India, manufacturing scraps are shredded and compressed to make wall partitions.
Zero Waste Should Be The Goal Of Every Company & Business
Zero waste is not a new concept, though the way in which companies approach the subject is.
Many people believe that a business should go from whatever level of waste they currently have to zero waste, overnight.
The truth is that if businesses are working towards zero waste, no matter what their speed, the result is going to be good.
To achieve zero waste, a variety of methods can be applied, but it mainly revolves around
- recycling, and
Basically, doing any of those can bring waste down to zero. That also means avoiding incinerating waste, or any other processes which may pollute the land, water, air, or be harmful to human health.
So, what is holding businesses back?
Many people believe that zero-waste solutions are expensive. I mean, if they were cost-effective, then companies would already have implemented them, right?
When zero-waste solutions are implemented effectively, they can save large companies millions of dollars.
The main reason why businesses shy away from this change is that we are all creatures of habit.
But, just take a look at Subaru and Sierra Nevada. Subaru implemented recycling procedures to ensure that everything was reused, and nothing in the US and Japanese plants went to the landfill. Not only was that successful, but, when combined with other procedures, they began to save $2 million annually. Sierra Nevada started sending leftover hops and barley to local farms to be repurposed. This helped them save more than $5 million every year.
It is now time for change.
Zero waste will create a positive impact, not only for employees, customers, and communities but for the world. And, it all starts with an evaluation of current processes. By looking at what is causing waste, the composition of that waste, and waste streams, businesses can effectively cut waste. The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) even offers free tools to streamline the processes.
After pinpointing where waste is coming from, and where it is going, businesses can start to reduce, reuse, recycle, repurpose, and recover. Here are some useful questions:
- How can waste be minimized?
- What waste is avoidable?
- What waste can be reused or recycled?
- Can waste be a source of energy for another business?
- How can waste create a revenue stream?
- How can waste be kept from the landfill?
By asking and answering these questions, a business can change how they deal with their waste and move towards zero waste.
What about toxic waste? Or waste that cannot be recycled?
Yes, there are some byproducts that cannot be recycled, reused, or avoided. It may be that a company cannot achieve a zero-waste standard. Is that reason not to try? No. The goal is to minimize waste as much as possible and move towards sustainable practices that benefit everyone. What protocols can be put in place to ensure that every company is limiting waste and helping the world?
Once a business knows what you can and can’t do, a plan can be implemented. A zero-waste plan will be business-specific, but that does not mean that implemented procedures from other businesses cannot be shared. The goal is not for a business to be better than everyone else, the goal is for everyone to be great together.
Some simple procedures that many businesses can start with include
- moving to paperless systems,
- educating employees on waste disposal and recycling,
- implementing reusable options,
- reducing plastic packaging,
- helping customers to recycle, and
- increasing public knowledge.
Zero waste is a commitment, there is no doubt about it. The all or nothing attitude needs to be flipped; small steps need to be taken.
The more businesses that are committed to zero waste, the more there is on other businesses and companies to get on board.
Once the ball starts rolling, there is going to be no stopping it.
Zero waste does not happen overnight, but with everyone on board, it will happen.
Reducing waste is not only great for the environment, but it also makes sense financially. There are many companies around the world which are leading the way when it comes to reducing, recycling, and reusing. The future is looking bright.