Zero Solid Waste Programs for Business More than Zero Landfill

Zero Landfill Offers Triple Bottom Line Benefits to Organizations

When companies talk about Zero Waste programs, they often tend to focus on the Zero Landfill component rather than the more broad philosophy of Zero Waste, generally speaking, which is a more holistic approach supporting the redesign of resource life cycles so that the maximum value of those resources is maintained, and so that disposal of resources is eliminated.

Zero Landfill can be viewed as one of the major elements of Zero Waste, being aimed at complete landfill diversion of solid wastes generated.

Zero Landfill efforts by companies can now be carefully vetted and validated through third party verification efforts of such bodies as UL Environment in order to protect customers from false claims, and to provide informed oversight to companies wishing to improve their environmental performance.  UL Environment, in its UL2799, has established three performance tiers. These include:

Zero Waste to Landfill: Products, facilities and/or organizations that have achieved a landfill waste diversion rate of 100 percent;

Virtually Zero Waste to Landfill: Those that have achieved a landfill diversion rate of 98 percent or greater; and

Landfill Waste Diversion: For those that have achieved landfill waste diversion rates of 80 percent or greater.

Recycling industry partners can support Zero Landfill initiatives in a number of ways. Such opportunities include:

Much of the present need for recycling, environmentalists argue, however, is a result of a poorly designed Zero Waste program which instead focuses on the creation of less material in the recycling stream through such factors as greater resource efficiencies such as durability and reuse, as well as better solutions for consumables.

A well designed Zero Landfill program would create less demand for the services of recyclers. And this is exactly the type of thing we see taking place with many Zero Landfill initiatives

Honda's Zero Landfill Journey in North America

One example of an effective landfill reduction initiative is that of Honda, which now generates a little over a pound of waste (0.77 kg) for every vehicle and power equipment product produced in the region. The company has reduced its total solid waste sent to landfills to greater than 94 percent during 2013-2015. A decade after beginning its work to eliminate solid waste, Honda continues to move towards achieving zero through a broad range of measures encompassing scrap iron and other industrial waste, as well as general waste, including cafeteria waste and scrap paper. Whereas it sent 62.8 pounds of industrial waste to the landfill for each vehicle produced in 2001, it anticipates sending out only 1.8 pounds of trash per vehicle by mid-2012.

For Honda, one important early step was combing through the waste stream to analyze the various types of waste streams and volumes associated with them.

As a result of the analysis, Honda undertook several actions, including:

  • Reducing the size of steel sheets used for stamping parts
  • Reusing sand from aluminum and ferrous metal casting operations
  • Changing packaging for parts to make it recyclable
  • Building recycling bins for materials
  • Minimizing paper and plastic waste in cafeterias
  • Composting food waste

In the case of Honda, these measures did not always reduce cost. Some of the initiatives have actually increased the cost to the company, which none the less continues to pursue a Zero Landfill agenda.

One example of the recycling initiative was the recycling of sand. Sand, which previously was landfilled, is now recycled by Honda's engine plants in Ohio, Alabama, and Canada to be used as mulch, landscaping materials or in concrete. Some 9,400 tons of sand was recycled by Honda in 2010.

Of Honda’s 14 North American plants, ten of them send no waste to landfills, while the other four plants only send two wastes. These include paper, plastic and food scrap from production facilities in Mexico, which Honda says lack environmentally-responsible disposal options, as well as a paint pre-treatment by-product that is not recyclable in the U.S. as per EPA regulation.

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