Reusing and Recycling Everything – Fulfilling Your Zero Waste to Landfill Strategy
According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, approximately 12 billion metric tons of plastic waste will reside in landfills by 2050. This prediction is particularly concerning because landfill waste, made up of plastic and other non-biodegradable or toxic materials, is linked to groundwater pollution, contamination of waterways, negative effects on local wildlife, and the release of methane and other harmful greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. Despite these environmental impacts, we continue to dispose of waste at an alarming rate – the average American disposes of roughly five pounds of waste each day, according to a Yale study.
We should all consider ourselves responsible for protecting our environment and keeping waste out of landfills. From utilities to manufacturers and transportation companies, companies across all sectors and industries are responsible for unique waste streams throughout their respective operations and supply chains. While many organizations have recycling programs in place, companies should also consider establishing comprehensive zero waste to landfill strategies in order to significantly reduce operational waste footprints.
At Ingersoll Rand, we’re on our own journey towards zero waste to landfill. Already, we’ve uncovered new strategies that are driving progress at individual facilities and across portfolios. Consider these three tips for implementing and deploying a successful zero waste to landfill strategy:
1. Take an Inventory
Before diving into a comprehensive zero waste to landfill strategy, it’s important to first understand your waste. How can you do this? Take your team “dumpster diving” by categorizing the contents of your trash bins and documenting the different types of waste. Not only will this activity help you visualize what you’re sending to the landfill, but it will also help you identify the materials for which you should find new recycling or reuse streams. This exercise can be very eye-opening for understanding the scope and scale of your organization’s waste practices.
2. Find Your Vendors
Once you have a better understanding of your actual waste, you can focus on identifying vendors that will recycle or find a reuse for each waste material. This may involve re-examining your current vendors to understand their offerings or choosing new vendors that will find a home for certain materials your current vendors won’t collect. Make sure you do your research – not all vendors are transparent about their alternative disposal methods. In fact, some may opt for burning waste, which has its own negative environmental impacts. Thorough vetting of vendors will help ensure appropriate disposal measures are followed.
In the event that your organization cannot identify a new disposal route for a specific material, consider finding a way to eliminate it completely. If that’s not an option, explore alternative, more easily recycled or reusable materials to replace it with. Another option to consider is a waste exchange. A waste exchange is where the waste product of one process or company becomes the raw materials for another process or company. And better yet, there are hundreds of waste exchange companies, websites and programs to choose from. Additionally, you should work with your supply chain and challenge your suppliers to implement returnable packaging or at a minimum, packaging that is 100 percent recyclable.
3. Get Everyone Involved
Internal coordination and buy-in from stakeholders, including your on-site employees, is essential for deploying and sustaining your zero waste to landfill plan. Regular and detailed communication with employees will help ensure that new processes are followed properly. For example, an employee may need to adjust their daily work schedule and remember to recycle once commonly thrown out materials, such as plastic ties or aluminum foil.
Integrating your zero waste to landfill commitments into everyday communications will also help inspire your entire organization to stay involved. Tracking and reporting progress on your goals may also support long-term buy-in.
The most important message to communicate to your organization is that everyone can have an impact. From individual commitments to recycle more, to organization-wide zero waste to landfill goals, it is our collective action that will matter the most in the fight against waste. Let’s work together to keep our planet more sustainable, cleaner and healthier for all.
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