Green Business Bureau Blog
Zero Waste to Landfill Programs
The idea of a zero waste to landfill program is more than just a recycling program. Zero waste to landfill encompasses every part of the manufacturing of the product, and activity at the plant producing the product is taken into consideration and the waste eliminated. From what happens to the metal left over in a stamping process to what happens to the food waste in the cafeteria. A zero waste to landfill factory is an environmental conservationist’s heaven. For corporations, a zero waste to landfill program equals efficiency at the factory, money saving techniques through energy conservation and reuse of materials. The less waste a company sends to the landfill equals a better profit margin. The zero waste community has begun to split into two separate levels: the purist who believes the product should be reused, and the modern believers who believe recycling the product is acceptable. The difference between the two is that recycling the product actually causes more waste of energy, water, and other resources. Whichever philosophy is followed the end result is a win-win for the environment and the reduction of waste products landing in our landfills.
More than just Recycling
A zero waste to landfill program is not a process that can be instituted over night. A corporation needs to take the time to do some dumpster-diving, so to speak, and find out what its waste consists of. Once the make-up of the waste is found, then an evaluation needs to be done to determine where the waste came from, and if a change in the manufacturing process can eliminate it. Even food waste from the cafeteria can be mostly eliminated by creating a composting program to use for fertilizing the landscaping. Other waste that can be recycled back into the production process, or recycled by other industries, can be eliminated by use of an on-site trash burning facility. This facility could utilize the heat from the trash burning to produce electricity of heat for part of the plant. Packaging from products can be redesigned to eliminate waste in cutouts, and made to be reused or easily recycled. After careful planning, many corporations have found that achieving a zero waste to landfill facility can be an attainable goal.
A Car Manufacturer Leads the Way
The Subaru plant in Indiana was one of the first facilities to go to a zero waste to landfill program. With the use of robotics in the production lines, they could become more precise in their stamping and trimming methods for parts. This simple reprogramming saved over 13,000 tons of scrap metal from being produced. The packing material for parts shipped from Japan is now shipped back to Japan to be reused again for new parts being shipped. By using an automated method, as opposed to a human hand, to add lubricating oil into the engine cylinders for assembly, they save over 650,000 gallons of oil in a year. Subaru boasts that they no longer send any manufacturing waste to the landfill, and have saved enough electricity to power a small community in for a year.
The process to become a zero waste to landfill facility can take a year, or two, to complete. There are several resources on the internet that help a corporation create a plan and goals to achieve their zero waste status. The Zero Waste Alliance, at www.zerowaste.org provides a comprehensive process to follow and ample resources to solve your recycling/reuse needs. As always the U.S. Environmental Agency has several proposals for helping reduce waste and even incorporates an Office of Strategic Environmental Management: Waste Minimization at www.epa.gov/epainnov/ strategicmgmt.htm . At the Container Recycling Institute, www.container-recycling.org , there is abundant information on ways to recycle any container, along with current legislation in the works. The Grass Roots Recycling, www.grrn.org holds annual conference to help familiarize people with steps to achieve zero waste.
Whether a corporation moves towards zero waste by themselves, or gets assistance through another resource, the decision needs to be made to go to a zero waste to landfill program now. The technology is available to make zero waste a reality, and the cost savings are apparent. Corporations should lead by example and show the world that the bottom line does not include only the profit margin. They should show future generations that the environment needs to be included in the business plan and the end result is less energy being wasted and resources being used wisely and responsibly.