According to a recent article in the Harvard Business Review entitled “More and More CEOs Are Taking Their Social Responsibility Seriously,”
“We are witnessing a big, transitional moment – akin to the transition from analog to digital, or the realization that globalization is a really big deal. Companies are beginning to realize that paying attention to the longer term, to the perceptions of their company, and to the social consequences of their products is good business.”
One trend related to social consequences that is gaining traction with companies that stress sustainability is Zero-waste-to-landfill (ZWTL).
In theory, this sounds great. But what exactly does this mean?
It’s important for waste generators to understand the variety of options and consequences of dealing with their waste streams. This article does a good job of distinguishing between recycling vs landfilling.
The challenge with the term ZWTL is there is no single unified definition. At its essence, the movement means not sending waste to a landfill where it will be buried for the purpose of decomposing for an indefinite period. Landfilling releases a gas (a mixture of methane and carbon dioxide), which if not treated properly can be detrimental to the environment.
Some companies and certification programs are hard lined and mean - No solid waste at all, not a single paper clip, can be landfilled. Every bit of waste produced at a company’s facilities must be reused, recycled, composted or, in the final step, burned for power in a waste-to-energy system.
Other companies regard ZWTL “as a guiding ideal rather than a benchmark,” those companies will allow a small percentage of waste to be sent to landfill, but will still call their program ZWTL.(Source: Triple Pundit)
Regardless of definition, all companies can benefit from a strategic process with the objective of minimizing the impact of or eliminating waste streams altogether.
So how does a company begin?
How Can Your Company Achieve Zero-Waste-To-Landfill?
According to GreenBiz, there are four steps to implementing a successful ZWTL program.
Step 1: Waste Characterization - a.k.a. Dumpster Diving
This step involves getting down and dirty with your waste streams. This will give you an idea of what part of your operation is generating the most waste, and how and where it ends up.
“By measuring both volume and weight of each material (paper, plastic, metals, etc.) that comprises the waste stream provides a window into the composition of your business’ discards.”
This knowledge will help you to move onto step 2.
Step 2: Develop Waste Prevention Strategies
This is the money step. For companies that are taking on ZWTL, the biggest gains come from eliminating waste within the process.
According to GreenBiz, “Some of the biggest savings in waste come not through diversion, but through prevention. In a perfect world, preventing waste generation would be the first step but it’s often hardest to do. It takes work to coordinate stakeholders in the supply chain from different silos in the company to agree on waste reduction prevention strategies.”
Step 3: Find and Implement New Uses
In an effort to shift our disposable mindset, this step involves creatively finding new uses for product and packaging in the waste stream.
By taking useful products and reusing or re-purposing them, time, money, energy and resources savings can be realized that benefits corporate bottom lines and increase sustainability.
One opportunity is to find creative ways to reuse packaging which is the source of a large amount of industrial waste.
Step 4: Engage employees in better waste diversion
A company’s most valuable resource is its employees, and they are the first defense in any zero-waste-to-landfill strategy.
Employee buy-in begins with a mindset shift by “training employees to view trash not as landfill material, but as a pile of valuable resources.”
“Companies can start by creating a recycle-friendly environment with easy-to-reach bins next to trash receptacles that are color-coded by material that also use signage reminding everyone what goes where. Bins and signage will train and remind employees to divert waste for reuse.”
How can Temarry Help your Company With Your Objectives
It is a fact of life that not all industrial by-product can be eliminated. Many manufacturing processes rely on industrial solvents in their manufacturing processes, and handling the most difficult hazardous waste streams is a challenge. A complex structure of state and federal regulations complicates the matter.
There is good news for companies that are looking for sustainable methods of disposal for their most challenging waste streams.
Developments in engineering and chemistry now give hazardous waste generators an option of managing hazardous waste streams in a more economical and environmentally conscious way.
The Closed-loop recycling process developed by Temarry Recycling combines solvent distillation, waste-to-energy and water treatment in a closed-loop process to offer “True Recycling” for industrial solvents, organic solids and water based hazardous waste.
By using hazardous waste streams (organic waste solids) previously earmarked for landfill or H061 cement kiln fuel blending in very distant locations, Temarry offers a truly sustainable recycling process to their customers.
Waste that was once destined for one of those old and inefficient methods of disposal is now being converted to energy in the form of steam to recycle industrial solvents.
And more importantly, after using the energy to distill spent solvents, quality, reusable solvents are produced extending their usable life and can be marketed back into industry.
By-product (still bottoms) from the solvent distillation process is combined with ash from the waste-to-energy process. After extracting all of the valuable resources locally, the mixture is sent directly to cement kilns to be used as an alternative fuel.
By recycling these hazardous waste streams, you can be assured that they will never be stored in a landfill as a problem to be solved by our great grandchildren.
Just as we launder and clean our clothes to extend their life, so it can be with dirty spent solvents to achieve the maximum economic and environmental benefit.