How to Start Your Journey To Zero Waste – Part Two

How Have Businesses Benefited From Shifting to Zero Waste?

Zero waste has changed from being an environmental dream to a business priority for many organizations. In the first article of our “Journey to Zero Waste” series, we explored what zero waste means and how you can get started with implementation (click here to read). In this second article, we look at some best-in-class examples across different segments to see why zero waste was such an important goal for them and the benefits their businesses have achieved by moving towards it.

Zero Waste – A Recap

In order for a business to be ‘Zero Waste’, at least 90% of their waste must be diverted from landfill or incineration. This commitment is substantial for any business, but when the entire supply chain is successfully implemented, the economic benefits are very tangible, as the case studies in this article prove.

Zero Waste in Vehicle Manufacturing – General Motors

With General Motors’ Landfill-free Program, all 142 manufacturing plants in Canada, Mexico and South America operate with zero waste.

All manufacturing plants monitor, measure and centrally report their performance on a monthly basis where it is evaluated against company-wide waste-reduction goals. This data helps identify project opportunities and enables the global communication of successes.

Waste management efforts are important to GM’s top and bottom lines, delivering efficiencies, generating revenue and helping with cost savings. The company also found that waste reduction enhances productivity, quality, efficiency and throughput.

Their model showed that minimal upfront costs decreased over time, with revenue generated from recycling helping to offset the initial investment. When GM started its landfill-free journey in the United States, it invested approximately $10 for every 1 ton of waste reduced. Over time, it reduced program costs by 92 percent and total waste by 62 percent.

Between 2017 and 2019, GM diverted an average of 81% of their total waste from landfills or incineration. This puts them on track for their target goal of 90% or more diversion from landfills across targeted facilities by 2025.

“To us, waste is simply a resource out of place.”
John Bradburn, Global Waste Reduction Manager, General Motors.

NWA Case Study – Waste Reduction at Barnes and Noble

The major bookseller Barnes & Noble had been struggling to get its numerous locations to divert sufficient waste from landfill, recycling only 30% of its total waste tonnage.

NWA carried out location optimization surveys to calculate the percentage and composition of waste available for recycling and identify the most efficient recycling strategy for each store location.

The recycling service was customized based on the needs of each location, market availability, and ease of use. NWA also provided the stores with educational information to support the new waste management strategy, teaching employees how to recycle effectively.

The recycling market was constantly reviewed, and stores revisited to ascertain whether further changes to the recycling program would be beneficial to their environmental and financial performance.

These zero waste management practices resulted in the bookstore increasing its recycling rate by 67%, yielding:

  • $160,000 savings over 3 years
  • Reducing 50,000 metric tons of CO2 per year
  • The equivalent of removing 11,000 cars from the road

To read how NWA assisted Barnes & Noble on this, click here.

Construction Company Skanska Fights Plastic Waste

With their Journey to Deep Green initiative, Skanska aims for all of its projects to have a near zero impact on the environment. Project environmental performance is rated from “vanilla” (compliance with laws and standards) to “deep green” (when a process has near zero impact on the environment).

Skanska’s long-term objective is to generate zero waste by reducing upfront demand, reusing materials whenever possible, and recycling or down cycling, resulting in zero waste projects. By 2018, Skanska succeeded in diverting over 95% of self-generated construction waste from landfill.

The company made the greatest savings from working with their supply chain to prevent waste and create innovative products. It also makes a significant investment in employee education to raise awareness of their zero waste ambitions. All staff members attend environmental awareness training and are briefed on zero waste practices before any construction starts.

The company has also utilized two innovative products to reuse plastic and reduce site waste:

  • Lightweight recycled plastic blocks form the base for site cabins, replacing traditional concrete foundations. On completion, the blocks are reused at another site, saving on further material consumption and eliminating related manufacturing carbon emissions and procurement costs.
  • An asphalt mixture that uses plastic pellets from old pallets, in place of a proportion of the normal bitumen-based binding element. The pellets reuse plastic waste, which would have otherwise been disposed of in landfills, and leads to a reduction in consumption of petroleum-derived bitumen.

How Can You Apply Zero Waste Strategies to Your Business?

Achieving zero waste will impact every facet of your business, from product design, choice of manufacturing processes, logistics and supply chain decisions through to waste and recycling management.

Check out the first article in our Journey to Zero Waste series for a step-by-step overview of how to implement these strategies (click here).

In addition to a reduction in waste disposal costs, zero waste strategies can generate revenue from reselling recyclables. This can reduce your organization’s carbon footprint and ultimately improve your ESG goals.

The process can be complex, and sometimes requires an initial financial outlay, but when implemented holistically, the benefits of zero waste – for the environment as well as your company’s balance sheet –will outweigh the costs.

How National Waste Associates Can Help

Our zero waste experts help businesses to reduce their waste costs and increase recycling with innovative techniques and by utilizing our huge network of vendors. We take away the complexity by managing the process on your behalf, creating tailored solutions for every location.

For a professional waste and recycling assessment and to learn how we can help you on the road to zero waste,
contact us at 1-888-692-5005 ext 6, or

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