What is Zero Waste?
A Zero Waste Policy is a company wide agreement that seeks to eliminate the use of single-use plastics and other waste that is usually thrown away. The goal is for businesses to send as little waste to landfill as possible by reducing, reusing, and recycling items where possible, or avoiding the need to purchase them at all. The hope is that through zero-waste policies – it will benefit the environment, and improve sustainability.
Zero waste is a more extreme strategy than simply committing to recycling 100% of waste. The traditional three Rs – reduce, reuse and recycle – only slow down the rate at which material flows to landfill, but the goal of zero waste is to eliminate it entirely.
In this blog post, we’ll be exploring the benefits of the zero waste movement, and how to get started with a zero waste lifestyle.
How Will Zero Waste Benefit the Environment?
The three Rs were a great innovation and they‘ve had a significant impact on progress towards a more sustainable future. However, in today’s world of mass consumption – with nearly 8 billion of us on the planet – it’s not enough. Even if we were to perfectly abide by the three R principles, the amount of waste in landfills would continue to grow.
So how does zero waste help the environment? At the root, it’s a fundamentally different strategy. It aims to recycle everything in perpetuity – producing no waste at all. In this way, zero waste helps to complete the circular economy. Factories produce goods which then wear out and eventually become inputs to new goods and so on.
Proponents of the circular economy claim that businesses need to move to an economy that operates this way to achieve multi-generational sustainability. If they don’t, then stores of precious resources will become exhausted.
The Problem with Landfills
Landfills served humanity well during the twentieth century, making a tremendous contribution to city sanitation by reducing disease. However, they’re an environmental catastrophe for several reasons.
First, landfills contain waste that leaks toxic chemicals and gases into the surrounding subsoil, potentially causing permanent damage. Waste can leachate, leading to dangerous and unpleasant toxic fumes.
Second, goods thrown into landfills embody vast quantities of carbon dioxide used in their production – around 42% of all emissions, according to the U.S. EPA estimates. When consumers throw away their waste, they render those CO2 emissions futile and set themselves up for the next round of consumption.
Lastly, landfills can kill animals and destroy natural habitats. Cutting down trees and making room for landfill sites removes forests and forces species into more marginal areas.
How to Get Started with a Zero Waste Lifestyle
So, are you wondering how to go zero waste as a business? Check out the following ideas:
Reuse Materials Where Possible
Businesses can often reuse their materials. For instance, if you sell metal products that become fatigued, you could set up a scheme with your customers that involve them returning items to you at the end of their life. You then simply reforge them into new products, or recycle them – and start the cycle all over again.
You can also look for ways to reuse equipment. For instance, rather than buying new office furniture, buy used furniture.
Recycling is another option. And while it isn’t a zero waste policy, strictly speaking, it helps your firm move in that direction.
Make sure that your business recycles all its waste paper and plastic. Most waste of this kind can be made into lower-quality products. For example, printing paper can become cardboard while plastic cups can become a vast range of new products.
Use the Hierarchy of Waste
Another strategy is to use the hierarchy of waste. The idea here is to address waste issues in a hierarchical manner, using the most effective measures first.
The official government-backed hierarchy of waste is:
- Preparing for reuse
- Other recovery
To use the hierarchy, first consider whether you can avoid using a particular resource. If that’s not possible, prepare it for reuse. If that option isn’t available, send it to recycling and so on down the list.
Consider a Responsible Waste Management Provider
What is zero waste, then? Essentially, it’s a strategy to circularise your business’s economy. However, it’s notoriously challenging to pull off. That’s why so many firms work with a responsible waste management provider, such as ourselves here at The Waste Brokerage Company. We specialise in the collection of commercial waste, and disposing of it responsibly. With an effective waste management strategy in place, your business can help to decrease the effects of climate change – and improve the sustainability of our planet.