Companies that prioritize making their waste management practices more sustainable have a competitive advantage in their industries.
Look no further than industry leaders like Unilever, Procter & Gamble, and Lehigh Technologies to see how keeping materials in use as long as possible has had a positive effect on their companies.
In 2014, Unilever achieved its goal to keep 100% of the non-hazardous waste it generated in its network of 242 factories from going to landfills. Any non-hazardous waste the company had previously generated is now reused, recycled or recovered.
Procter & Gamble is currently also working toward the goal of eliminating all manufacturing waste from its more than 100 production sites. Doing so would eliminate or re-use nearly 650,000 metric tons of waste, the company says.
Lehigh Technologies has reduced the number of tires that goes into landfills by cryogenically freezing the rubber from waste tires. By shattering the tires into powder, that material can then be used as a raw material in many consumer applications. This innovative and environmentally-friendly approach to keeping a material in use as long as possible has enabled its wider use, therefore increasing the product’s demand.
These are just some of the ways companies have discovered a competitive advantage in their respective industries by reducing the amount of waste they generate and embracing circular economy concepts, which aim to use as few resources as possible by keeping materials in circulation.
Here are some of the reasons that zero waste companies in the world are gaining a serious competitive advantage in their industries.
It is a normal reaction to worry that implementing any new practice will eat away at profits. Today, sustainable practices in particular can get a bad rap for increasing costs. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
Sustainable business practices improve efficiency, and with efficiency comes lower costs. For example, renewable energy sources lower energy costs, and reducing waste cuts disposal costs.
In fact, Unilever says going zero waste saved them more than $225 million. The company’s changes also generated several new jobs.
States like California also have programs in place that provide economic incentives, which offer financial rewards through grant, payment and loan programs to companies that reduce their environmental impact through sustainable operations.
Minimized Environmental Impact
Zero waste companies are more likely to reduce their carbon footprint and increase their efforts in preserving natural resources.
Waste has a tremendous impact in many ways, whether it’s through public health or on the natural environment. Eliminating or completely repurposing that waste for another use can have a greater impact.
Procter & Gamble, for example, has taken surfactants from the waste generated by its brand, Head and Shoulders, and repurposed it for use at a car wash. The company has also taken scrap from its Tampax plant and used it to make emergency spill containment products. These moves have not only repurposed waste, but created external partnerships that have been beneficial for the company.
For companies that produce hazardous waste, such as solvent-based liquids, solids and sludge, choosing a facility, like Temarry Recycling, that offers a closed loop recycling process can significantly reduce that environmental impact.
Closed loop recycling is a restorative and regenerative process that keeps materials at their highest utility and value. This form of recycling takes a material and recycles it indefinitely so that the properties of that material do not degrade.
You can read more about how this state-of-the-art process works in our article, A Waste Free Economy: Temarry Leading The Way.
Decreased Transportation Impact
Waste transportation, in particular, can contribute significantly to the amount of emissions produced.
In fact, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, transportation in general was responsible for approximately 28% of emissions in 2018. That’s because more than 90% of fuel used for transportation is petroleum-based, which includes diesel and gasoline.
When companies take advantage of opportunities to recycle their waste using technology that promotes the highest level of sustainability, their environmental impact due to waste transportation is minimized.
For example, West Coast companies in particular have closer access to the closed loop recycling process outlined in the section above. Temarry Recycling, which operates out of San Diego, has a Treatment, Storage and Disposal Facility (TSDF) in Tecate, Mexico.
Some companies choose to send their waste to Kansas and Arkansas for fuel blending. While this is an environmentally-friendly option for managing their solvents, that across-the-country trek substantially increases transportation costs and their carbon footprint thanks to the amount of fuel that vehicle will need to use.
Word of mouth travels far, and zero waste companies can feel confident their sustainable practices will appeal to consumers.
A survey by the Natural Marketing Institute, in fact, found that nearly 60% of consumers are more likely to purchase goods and services from a company that practices sustainability.
The Stanford Social Innovation Review found that even among CEOs, more than 90% believe integrating environmental, economic and social issues into their companies’ operations are important to long-term success.
In an era where consumers are more educated about how their actions affect the environment and where news travels fast, it is important for a company to take advantage of any boost in good PR it can get.
A Competitive Advantage
Eliminating waste can be achieved a number of ways, but can be more challenging for companies that produce hazardous waste.
Advanced technology has made it possible to overcome these challenges, however, by introducing a method of recycling that keeps materials at their highest value and in use indefinitely.
Our article, How To Be One Of The Top Circular Economy Companies, further outlines some of the ways business growth, reduced costs and increased sustainability can all be achieved simultaneously, setting your company up for a tremendous advantage in the marketplace.