Google, Unilever, Subaru and many other companies are leading the way on zero waste. At Google, many of the company’s key data centers have achieved zero waste and nearly all of the waste from their global data centers is being diverted from landfill. Unilever, with hundreds of factories around the world, achieved its Zero-Waste-to-Landfill goal in 2016, six years ahead of schedule. For the past 15 years, nothing has gone to waste at Subaru. Their manufacturing facility in Lafayette, Indiana, and four plants in Japan, have been zero waste to landfill since 2005.
Zero waste goes beyond conventional waste management approaches. Traditional ‘cradle-to-grave’ waste management winds up with products in landfill. The new ‘cradle-to-cradle’ waste management is circular, and strives for zero waste through reduction, reuse and recycling.
Zero Waste, a waste plus recycling management company, suggests the following zero waste hierarchy principles:
- Rethink – Use reused, recycled, or sustainably gathered non-toxic materials.
- Reduce – Sustainable purchasing that supports social and environmental concerns and local markets.
- Reuse – Optimize the reuse of materials and products through repair, refurbishment, modular technologies, and repurposing.
- Recycle/Compost – Support and expand the use of high-quality recyclables and materials, including leveraging local markets and promoting composting.
- Material Recovery – Optimize material recovery and only use energy recovery systems that operate at biological temperatures and pressures.
- Residual Management – Minimize polluting gasses and toxic residuals from materials. Encourage the preservation of resources and minimize destructive disposal methods.
- Unacceptable – Disincentivize and remove support for the incineration of waste and waste-to-energy systems. Remove all toxic residuals from consumer products and in building materials.
The Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA), a leading authority on zero waste standards, policies and best practices, offers educational resources for organizations interested to join the zero waste movement.
ZWIA adheres to four Charter Principles and invites organizations to sign the Zero Waste Declaration to demonstrate their commitment:
- Convert wasting to managing resources for the benefits of local production and the creation of a sustainable society.
- Redesign products and methods of production to eliminate waste by mimicking natural processes and closed-loops
- Resist incineration and landfilling in order to promote innovation in resource conservation and methods of production
- Collaborate with others with common interests worldwide.