Why Zero Waste

As seen in our Plastic Series from last quarter, the infrastructure we have in place for processing plastic and general waste is failing us.

Based loosely on the same principles of the circular economy, Zero Waste is a new ideal many companies, schools, and organizations strive to achieve in order to minimize waste sent to landfills.

Zero Waste involves designing new products and creating new management techniques for handling waste. Many large companies have already implemented new changes with big payoff. Subaru, for example, has three manufacturing plants that have not produced waste for landfills in over 12 years. Beyond the huge environmental benefits, Subaru has also saved $1 - $2 million annually since their U.S. plant went zero waste. Similarly, Unilever keeps at least 240 factories and 400 sites from sending non-hazardous waste to landfills; the company claims that these changes saved them over $225 million, and also created new jobs in the process.

The success of Subaru's Zero Waste program did not come easily, nor did it come with just one single idea. Rather, the company combined different processes to optimize the amount of materials they reuse, such as:

  • Tracking coded containers to different locations within the factory

  • Consistently reusing packaging materials from Subaru plants in Japan

  • Not only using recycled bumpers and steels for future cars, but also creating new vehicles with recycling in mind during the design stage

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Subaru has worked towards being Zero Waste since 2004; because of their success, they partnered with the National Park Service in 2015 for their Zero Waste Landfill Initiative, using "Subaru's expertise to identify, test, and promote practices that reduce the amount of trash parks send to landfills".

Grand Teton, Denali, and Yosemite are all undergoing changes with different initiatives and practices to make Zero Waste possible. At Grand Teton, they have implemented new recycling infrastructure, a compost pilot program, and new art installations to raise awareness and educate the public.

Art installation in Grand Teton

Art installation in Grand Teton

The Zero Waste spirit is clearly spreading. Clean Consulting is heavily involved with UCLA's goal for Zero Waste to landfill by 2020. The University not only implemented new recycling and composting programs to handle a variety of waste, but also created educational programs to inform the community about how to reduce and properly dispose of different products. You can read more about Clean Consulting's work with UCLA here.

Check out more about UCLA’s  #MyLastTrash  Campaign

Check out more about UCLA’s #MyLastTrash Campaign

-Lily Lee

Zero Waste policies perfectly represent how maximizing profits and caring for the environment do not need to be sacrificed at the expense of the other. The growing awareness and implementation of such practices suggests a brighter future of businesses supporting the environment instead of harming it.