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Zero Waste: What is it, Why do it?

Zero Waste strategy

Whether your organization is guided by financial drivers, mandatory legislation, reputation or even altruism, corporate waste management practice has become an important subject for sustainability professionals.

Broadly speaking, waste management in an organization includes a wide variety of processes and resources engaged to: handle in-house generated waste; organize and minimize product-related and customer-related waste; organize corporate waste disposal methods and end-of-life; comply with environmental legislation and health and safety standards.

There is a growing movement among global organizations focused on implementing certifiable Zero Waste to Landfill solutions. Leading organizations, such as Royal Canin, are moving beyond the Zero Waste to Landfill concept, aiming to establish a complete and comprehensive circular economy, a cradle-to-cradle solution.

Some well-known, impactful waste reporting and certifying guidelines and frameworks include GRI (306), Carbon Trust Standard and UN Sustainable Development Goals (12, 13, 17). Mandatory directives that support these frameworks, include the EU WEEE directive on electronic waste management and more , Non-Financial Reporting.

Waste management techniques vary and impact organizations in many ways:

  • Traditional waste management focused on landfills only. Today, we understand the environmental hazards of this practice. Decaying waste dumped on a landfill creates methane, a greenhouse gas (GHG) that has much higher warming potential than carbon dioxide. Toxic liquids formed at a landfill also threaten to penetrate soils and underground water sources. Countries such as Austria are completely phasing out landfills and focusing on waste incineration facilities.
  • Recycling means taking materials that are no longer of use, processing them and giving them a new life through a new product and purpose. Reusing or repurposing is done by either extending the longevity of a product or repairing it to avoid the need to manufacture a new product from virgin materials.
  • Reducing means using less and wasting less. By reducing the materials we use, we not only reduce waste but also the demand for primary products, making a double positive effect on the environment.
  • Refusing is eliminating non-recyclable materials entirely from products, plastic wrapping for example, to decrease the total amount of waste.
  • Composting is to recycle organic materials regarded as waste into a compost soil, rich in nutrients.

Benefits of a Zero Waste strategy

  1. Yield financial savings of waste management

If for no other reason, implementing waste management saves organizations money in terms of waste costs. Inefficient operations that result in additional waste bring additional costs to the organization; costs that can be avoided by good management practice. Knowing and understanding waste flows helps organizations understand business operations, ensuring resource and energy cost optimization, efficient use of labor and final product cost cuts.

  1. Build waste into the risk management strategy

In the EU, waste management plays an important role in risk management. The legislation surrounding waste management and compliance requirements are stringent. If your company operates in the EU, ensure you are on top of the requirements, explore pan-European waste obligations and benchmark how your organization performs against these.

  1. Protect your brand reputation

Companies are often scrutinized for unsound environmental practices. Being proactive in implementing innovative waste management strategies, before being called out or required to do so, not only creates positive brand value that contributes to a good reputation, but also sets a path for other companies to emulate. Being seen as a leader in environmental practices further increases a company’s impact.

  1. Manage data centrally.

Use Zero Waste as an initiative to empower your organization to aggregate and visualize all its cross-enterprise, energy and sustainability information to improve corporate transparency and transform data into action. Schneider Electric can support companies in their efforts of active waste management through customer tailored experience in EcoStruxure Resource Advisor, through a careful examination of industry and client waste specific circumstances, and strategy development focusing on optimizing and minimizing wastes.

Contact us if you are considering improving your waste management practice and looking into savings opportunities cross your global operations with EcoStruxure Resource Advisor.

Contributed by Jana K. Pataky, Sustainability Consultant at Schneider Electric