How Zero Waste Helps You Get to Net Zero

“Net Zero” is the business world’s latest buzzword, and it’s no surprise – there has been a surge in commitments from governments and businesses to reach net zero, so momentum is building incredibly fast.

What exactly is Net Zero?

Essentially, a business reaches net zero when the amount of carbon dioxide they produce in their operations is no more than the amount taken away. When they combine this with finding or investing in methodologies to sequester any residual carbon emissions, this significantly reduces a business’s absolute emissions – so they don’t contribute to a net increase in CO2. This process is referred to as decarbonizing.

Why does Net Zero Matter?

Over the next decade, what we do as countries and businesses to accomplish net zero will have a major impact on the world we live in. This will reach every corner of the economy, so businesses that are first to start to decarbonize will benefit greatly.

With the US committed to achieving net zero by 2050, many major corporations including GSK, HP and Heineken have set goals to decarbonize their organizations ahead of the legal target. Over 200 of these corporations have publicly pledged to decarbonize their operations by 2040 as part of the Climate Pledge.

According to the Edelman Trust Barometer 2021, 66% of respondents believe CEOs should take the lead on creating change, instead of acting only when governments impose change.

A business’s progress towards net zero is most accurately measured by quantifying its value chain emissions.

What are value chain emissions?

These are emissions associated not with a company itself, but with the other entities it interacts with, both up and down the value chain. Examples of upstream emissions include those generated in and the production of raw materials or components bought by the company. Downstream, the term covers such things as the emissions generated by the use or disposal of the end product that the company sells.

For example, if a car manufacturer is to measure their upstream emissions, these would include such things as the energy consumed in the production of the raw materials (steel, carbon fiber, plastic) that goes into the vehicle parts. To measure their downstream emissions, they would have to include such things as the emissions that the vehicles might produce over their lifecycle, and the carbon emissions associated with the end-of-life treatment and disposal of the vehicles.

While some companies are making good progress in understanding the emissions they generate directly, tracking their emissions footprint right across the value chain is a far bigger challenge.

For most companies, value chain emissions represent a much greater proportion of their carbon footprint than operational emissions. They’re also something they have much less control over. But addressing them is a critical element of the path for reaching net zero.

Zero Waste

“Zero waste” means reducing the volume of waste that a business generates, recycling more, and ultimately sending less than 10% to landfill.

Zero waste should be a core component of any business’s strategy to decarbonize and reach net zero. Every resource that a business uses and then disposes of within its operations has an intrinsic carbon footprint. This includes the energy used to produce it, move it through the supply chain, haul the waste materials, and then finally to dispose of it. The carbon footprint of this resource flow through the supply chain can therefore represent a significant proportion of a business’s carbon emissions and any reduction here translates to direct gains in decarbonization.

How Zero Waste Helps You Decarbonize Your Business

A sustainable strategic waste management partner will work with you to develop a zero waste plan that will:

  • Minimize the amount of waste that your operations generate
  • Identify opportunities to reuse waste resources either within your own operations, or by utilizing third parties
  • Recycle the greatest proportion of your waste in the most environmentally advantageous manner
  • Divert waste from landfill by sending to incineration (WtE) or other more environmentally beneficial waste treatment facilities
  • Increase the efficiency of waste haulage, so that containers are optimally filled before being emptied, reducing transport mileage and emissions

NWA Supports You on Your Path to Net Zero

The experts at National Waste Associates (NWA) work with our clients to implement a waste minimization plan customized to your unique operational needs.

We conduct audits of all resources that flow out of each location to highlight where there are opportunities to minimize resource consumption, divert or repurpose materials, and reuse others – whether they are reused within your own operation, or externally. Then we source the waste management partners who can recycle the maximum number of materials to the highest quality standard, maintaining the value of those materials.

Finally, we’ll identify the least environmentally detrimental disposal option for any remaining waste.

We conduct analysis of the weights and fill levels of the containers at your sites and compare these against the optimal weights that they should be able to achieve, identifying where haulers are emptying containers too often.

Optimizing container loads ensures that containers are emptied only when they are full. We combine this with right-sizing the container to your operational requirements to reduce collection frequencies from as often as a daily service, to as little as once a week – cutting the associated carbon footprint by as much as 80%.

By tackling your waste operations from all angles, our experts will streamline your waste operations so that it will have the lowest carbon footprint, and ensure the maximum value is extracted from all resources consumed – all while reducing your costs.

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