Zero waste to landfill is the new buzz-term. But what exactly does it mean? A simple definition is that no waste is sent for disposal to a landfill, and no waste is incinerated without energy recovery. That’s the theory; the practice can be more complex. And it takes a good plan, and the help of professionals such as CEC, to make it a reality. For generations landfill and incineration were the main ways of disposing of waste.
It is generally believed that by not using landfill that it was good for the environment and yes, there are better ways than sending waste to landfill. The only other source available then was to incinerate the waste and create energy, this was ok except we were now polluting the atmosphere by burning the waste.
There are better ways of disposing waste which will help the environment and most companies could by getting some professional advice from CEC, divert their waste to the Circular Economy.
Every county had their tips, where rubbish was just buried. The stink of the council tip wafted for miles, and the area could be identified by the flock of gulls hovering overhead. And, particularly in rural areas, many people burnt their rubbish, often in old oil drums or on bonfires.
Today we know the environmental impact of such practices, and we rightly want to distance ourselves from them. The ethical disposal of waste concentrates on recycling, minimising, reusing, and leaving landfill and incinerators as a last resort. Now we are into the Circular Economy.
CEC can get your company to achieve zero waste to landfill with a simple and effective method that your business can promote as a great marketing tool, that you can back up to your customers with data and proof.
The Circular Economy
More buzz-words! But the circular economy is an easy concept to grasp. It is a response to the traditional linear economy – take, make, waste. Let’s look at how the concept of the circular economy evolved.
In the traditional linear economy we had four steps. First we sourced raw materials – through mining, agriculture, or other methods. Then we used those raw materials to produce products. Then we sold the products to the end user – the consumer. And the waste from the whole process was sent to landfill, dumped in the sea (remember The Solution to Pollution is Dilution?), or incinerated.
This wasteful linear model made way for the reuse economy. We sourced our raw material, we made our products, then we recycled as much of the waste as we could and used that in the production process. Finally the non-recyclable waste was sent to landfill or incinerated.
That was an improvement on the linear economy, but now many industries are trying to go one better. In the circular economy we still need to source our raw materials, but then we strive to recycle the waste from production and consumption and use them fully in the production process, so that there is zero waste.
Waste costs are increasing and will continue to do so. Businesses, individuals, Governments need to deal with the waste issue now to ensure future generations don’t suffer the demise. Spending wisely now in valuable research, systems and technology to reduce waste will allow first to action companies reap the benefits of sustainability and the circular economy.
Even during the Coronavirus pandemic, people and businesses searched for information on how to achieve the correct sustainability practices that would help the environment, while also keeping to the highest standard of virus spread prevention according to regulations.
The Five Rs of Zero Waste
To help us focus on the goal of zero waste, we follow the five Rs.
This is the simple one – say no to excess packaging and other easily eliminated waste. Refuse single-use plastics like disposable cups and straws, free coupons, printed receipts, and flyers. Find alternatives – take a photo of that receipt or flyer, and bring along a reusable coffee cup.
Cut down on what you purchase by being careful. If you run a hotel, do you really need that much carrots in the kitchen? Buy what you need and nothing more. This has the added advantage of saving you money, as well as eliminating waste.
Then take care of what you buy, to make it last longer. If it lasts longer, you reduce the number of times you need to replace it.
An important aspect of reuse is to repair what can be repaired. If your computer breaks, you could buy a new one. But it is kinder on the environment – and cheaper – to repair the broken one. The same goes for furniture, machinery, clothing, and technology.
And you can also sell or donate what you no longer need. Finding a new owner will reduce your waste disposal costs. If you can’t sell on, just give something on. Having someone pick up an old office desk will cost you nothing. Having to dispose of it will cost you.
Recycling is not always easy. But it is worth the effort to find facilities that provide the service. Paper, plastics, bottles, aluminium, and many other products can be recycled. The onus is on you to sort your recyclables, but once you do, you know you are driving the circular economy rather than depleting the planet’s resources.
Rot sounds horrible, but it is one of the easiest ways of reducing waste. So many things are compostable. At home we can keep a composting bin in the yard, enriching our garden in the process. But if you run a business, composting is also possible. What about food waste from your canteen? Better to compost it than pay for its disposal.
By following the Five Rs we can all do our bit – both in our private lives and professionally – to reduce waste. We may even shoot for zero.
Zero Waste Certification
It is important your customers know you care about the environment and dispose of your waste properly. Various certifications are available, and there are also grants to help you achieve zero waste to landfill, such as the Circular Economy Innovation Grant Scheme. At CEC we would be delighted to help you achieve your goals – and faster than you imagined possible.
We helped the Maryborough House Hotel in Cork achieve their Zero Waste to Landfill target in just four months – adding to their reputation, but more importantly, saving them money in the process. We can do the same for you.