More and more companies are getting Zero Waste Certifications – but what does that even mean?
The Definition of the Zero Waste Program says: “Zero Waste maximizes recycling, minimizes waste, reduces consumption and ensures that products are made to be reused, repaired or recycled back into nature or the marketplace.”
The founders of Zero Waste want businesses to switch up their way of using too many resources to make few people slightly more productive to using fewer resources and being more productive while also reducing waste. Many federal governments have encouraged businesses to reduce waste such as the USA, Canada, India, Australia, and others.
A Zero Waste Certification is awarded to a company if more than 90% of the waste is reused or recycled in one way or another, with less than 10% being sent to landfills. There are many ways in which a company can achieve this certification; the Peace Center, a performing arts center in my hometown Greenville, for example, sends all their waste to a company that recycles and reuses the waste for them, meaning that they do not have to do any of the recycling themselves. The BMW plant in Greenville, however, sells some of their reusable waste and donates the money to charity, but they also work with their suppliers to make the shipping containers for parts reusable. BMW recently took it one step further and even made 85% of every car’s body recyclable. Other companies that have a Zero Waste Certification or Policy are Apple, Nike, and much more.
The Peace Center, in Greenville, SC, is the first performing arts center in the United States to take part in the Zero Waste Program. The policy is in place throughout all of the buildings such as the theater itself, the offices, and the lounges. Maureen Shallcross, the Vice President in the office of Operations, mentioned that all of the trash gets picked up by a waste company that sorts their trash. WasteCo, the company, separates recyclable trash such as glass and Aluminium from the rest. Then, the non-recyclable trash gets sent to a gasification plant which makes syngas from the waste instead of simply burning it. The product, syngas, is a fuel and can be used to power machines, etc.
BMW has a plant in Greenville which has also implemented the Zero Waste to Landfill Policy. With the policy in place, about 95% of the waste gets recycled or reused – in the office and in the facility, even non-regulated waste. However, BMW does not only recycle for the sake of making the world a cleaner place. The plant sells aluminum cans and cardboard to recycling groups, and the proceeds are donated to local charities in an attempt to make a difference in the community as well. Scrap wood is sent to local mulch factories instead of being burnt. In addition to recycling within the plants, BMW is working with their suppliers to design reusable/returnable shipping containers for car parts. Lastly, the BMW plant in Landshut, Germany, was the first to build a Recycling Center and take the issue even more seriously. Now, 85% of every car’s body is recyclable and reusable to make new cars.
Another world-famous company trying to be awarded the Zero Waste to Landfill Certification is Nike. Nike has recycled over 3 billion water bottles to make polyester for t-shirts. Also, the ColorDry Technology has saved about 20 million liters of water (that’s a little over 5 million gallons for my American readers 😀 ). In addition to saving water and recycling water bottles, Nike has since 2008 also reduced their energy use and emission by 50% and is working towards using 100% renewable energy. However, Nike also calls their customers to action. Through the Reuse-A-Shoe program, Nike was able to recycle 30 million pairs of shoes. Going along with that program is Nike Grind, which takes old shoes and apparel and makes brand new products. By 2020, Nike wants to be a part of the Zero Waste to Landfill program.
Lastly, Apple has been working on reducing waste and several of their plants have the Zero Waste to Landfill Certification. All stores worldwide have implemented the policy, however, not all have received the certification. Since 1994, Apple has kept about 597 million pounds (271 million kilograms) of equipment and waste out of landfills. Their waste is reused, recycled, composted, and even converted into energy for reuse. Apple Renew is a program that allows customers to send in old phones to ensure proper recycling. Also, Apple recently developed a robot that takes apart the iPhone 6 and separates the reusable and recyclable parts from the rest.
From the survey I took at my school, I found that students are very unaware of the Zero Waste to Landfill program. I surveyed 65 students from grades 9 through 12. About 78.5% of students at my school do not know what the Zero Waste to Landfill Program is, about 21.5% have heard of it – of which 18.5% do not know what it does. These percentages show that the program is not very popular, especially among young adults. 95% of participants do not know of any companies that are a part of the program, which I think can be generalized among a big group of people because the program is not discussed often. Then I asked about the students’ own recycling. 38.5% said they try to recycle as much as possible, 47.8% said they recycle to some extent. 13.9% said they do not recycle at all. Almost 50% of participants said that they have a recycling box at their home, the other 50% does not, due to an extra cost or their waste company not offering one. Another efficient way to recycle, the compost, was very uncommon, with only 13.9% having one and using it. 78.5% of participants said that they do not have a compost. However, a positive outlook was obvious as 52.3% said that efficient recycling should be required of everyone, while some 32.3% said it should be required to some extent.
In addition to companies taking part in the Zero Waste program, you yourself can get involved and make changes in your home to recycle and reuse as much as possible. The average American produces about 745 kilograms of waste per year – but you can reduce that number by a lot! Just a few additions or behavioral changes in a household can make recycling much easier; for example:
- Buying recycling bins
- Installing a kitchen composter
- Using shopping bags made from cloth
- Buying recyclable disposables such as paper towels, napkins,…
- Shopping wisely and reviving leftovers
- Buying in bulk and portioning food yourself
- Buying items packaged in cardboard or paper rather than plastic
- Setting up an outdoor compost pile for food scraps, unbleached paper, fur, …
- Putting worms on a compost pile will speed up the transformation of waste into compost
- Looking for companies that recycle items you can not recycle or reuse yourself
- Setting up shelves for items that you need to repair, want to donate, or plan to reuse.
These are just some ideas for how an individual can have a positive impact on nature. How many of these are common in your country or the area that you live in? In Germany, we were required to separate waste from recyclables, we had a compost in our backyard, and we used shopping bags made from cloth. Now, in America, we do not have a compost, we are not required to separate waste from recyclables, and we do not use the cloth shopping bags anymore. I am aware that this is a problem, however, when we move back, we will definitely go back to our old ways and start being more environmentally safe. Now, I have challenged myself to try to recycle and reuse more and therefore take part in the Zero Waste program.
I hope this post has made you aware of the Zero Waste to Landfill program and you will consider raising awareness for it in your community to help clean our planet and prevent human-caused environmental disasters! Please comment and let me know what you think about this article and the program!!
Here’s my quiz if you feel ready to take it!