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Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Zero waste moves from "best" to standard operating practices

With recent industry developments, zero waste segues from "the green thing to do" into respected material management that makes good business and environmental sense. Veteran zero waste companies substantiate clean, contaminant-free material source-separated on-site improves the corporate bottom line, even in "soft" recycling markets.

USZWB Board & USGBC President
signing the official agreement
Further validating zero waste's prominent role in corporate material management, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announced on October 5 they joined forces with the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) to advance zero business practices. USZWBC will integrate into the global Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) community that drives sustainability across all sectors. 

GBCI will assume responsibility for the ongoing management and evolution of the Zero Waste Facility Certification (ZWFC) and Zero Waste Business Associate programs created by USZWBC. Zero waste principles will align with GBCI’s offerings. 

The ZWFC joins a family of prominent certifications administered by the GBCI: the PEER standard for power systems, the WELL building standard, the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), Parksmart, EDGE (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiency) and the GRESB benchmark, which is used by institutional investors to improve the sustainability performance of the global property sector. 

As the home to LEED - Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design - Certification, the USGBC is the recognized global standard for sustainable building design, construction, operations and maintenance.

The ZWA Blog article, USGBC Empowers Zero Waste Industry: USGBC & USZWBC join forces, details the monumental industry announcement.

Along with the USGBC, national trade associations are vehicles to educate the corporate community on the zero waste business value. In October two prominent industry trade associations - the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) and the National Wooden Pallet & Container Association (NWPCA) - published front cover zero waste articles in their October hard copy magazines.

Pallet Central:

Published by the NWPCA, Pallet Central features Zero Waste Makes Good Business & Environmental Sense as the September | October issue front cover story. Written by Elemental Impact Founder Holly Elmore on behalf of the USZWBC, the article is introductory in nature.

For zero waste success, two prime ingredients are necessary: 1> a culture shift from waste management to materials management and 2> a practical staged-in approach complete with education, clear signage, and employee engagement. Top management buy-in is critical to shifting corporate culture along with providing employee incentives and support. Quantifying, communicating and rewarding success builds strong enthusiasm and support for long-term zero waste program success.

A first step on the zero waste journey is a waste audit. An audit determines the baseline of current practices in-place as well as the quantity and type of materials generated at the facility. In addition, the audit reveals the "easy win" areas, which are perfect program starting points.

Throughout the article, the strong business case for zero waste is emphasized. For example, in 2015 Gold Level ZWFC Piazza Produce “sold” 733.8 tons of wood pallets (roughly 66,700 pallets) for approximately $163,500. In contrast, estimated landfill charges for the pallets were $65,700, including hauling and tipping fees.

USZWBC Board Member and Piazza Produce Facility Manager Scott Lutocka often says “There’s Ca$h in Your Tra$h!” and “You don’t know what you don’t know (about the value in your waste stream)!” … and Scott understands well the cash value of Piazza Produce trash! 

Scott by the hardworking
Piazza baler
In 2015 alone, the Piazza Produce zero waste program generated $288,034 in cost-savings. Since launching in 2005, Piazza Produce enjoyed a cumulative $1.56 million in bottom line improvements from successful zero waste practices. Even with the soft recycling markets, established corporate zero waste programs continue to produce cost-savings and improve the bottom line. 

Zero waste is a team sport! Product packaging, including manufacturing raw materials, is a significant contributor to landfill-destined items. By working in tandem with the supply chain, recyclable or reusable packaging may often replace "trash" packaging.

Platinum ZWFC at their five U.S. Plants, Earth Friendly Products (EFP) established a Supplier Code of Conduct including a sustainability questionnaire. Negative questionnaire answers require an explanation. With team spirit, EFP trains their suppliers on zero waste practices. EFP Vice-President of Sustainability and Education Nadereh Afsharmanesh visits vendor manufacturing plants to witness zero waste practices in-place and provide helpful recommendations.

As it closes, the article notes the pathway to zero waste success is well established with the pioneers open to sharing their lessons learned and proven practices implemented. USZWBC veteran members share experiences with those embarking on the zero waste journey. According to USZWBC Founder & Executive Director Stephanie Barger: 
“USZWBC is a solutions based organization and provides many resources for their members and the community to vet ideas and challenges. Our Advisory Board members can assist with working on solutions for individuals or an industry along with leading task forces or developing technical committees for more challenging long-term issues. Our resource library contains toolkits, case studies and other educational information.”
Inside Supply Management

While the Pallet Central article was introductory in nature, Inside Supply Management's (ISM) October cover story, Full Circle: Supply management can play a key role in the circular economy, working with suppliers to eliminate waste and drive financial value, delves into the broader spectrum inherent within the circular economy. ISM is the Institute for Supply Management's official industry publication.

Written by ISM Publications Coordinator Lisa Arnseth, the article is an excellent overview of zero waste's role within the circular economy along with specific examples. Dell Computers is a prime article feature with their impressive closed loop commitment. Jennifer Allison, Dell director of supply chain sustainability, emphasizes the importance of a systems approach with her quote:
“One of the most important things in understanding the circular economy is that we’re talking about systems — not just products, programs or initiatives. Looking at the whole system is when change begins to make a significant difference. Technology is a great tool for measuring and analyzing systems, understanding processes and identifying inefficiencies.”
EFP is another article feature. Using quotes and examples provided by Nadereh, the article gives examples of EFP's team work with their supply chain. Nadereh's hands-on approach with supply chain management is effective at preventing "trash" packaging.

Within the circular economy, the zero waste definition is beyond material management practices at a particular manufacturing or other facility. Waste inherent within delivered products is critical to achieving circular economy zero waste. If a product was manufactured in a wasteful facility, then the product brings intangible waste into the customer's operations. 

Working in tandem with their supply chain, EFP supports their zero waste demands with complimentary training. As mentioned in the Pallet Central article, Nadereh visits supplier operations to monitor material management systems in-place and offer assistance.

An industry leader, ISM published The Journey to a Zero Waste Supply Chain in March 2013 written by Ei Founder Holly Elmore. The ZWA Blog article, Supply Chain Critical to Zero Waste Success, gives an article overview along with examples from Subaru's operations.

Nadereh with recycling bins
on the plant floor
When researching the October article, Lisa reconnected with Holly for industry referrals and an in-depth interview. Emphasizing the team spirit approach to working with the supply chain, Holly says "“Remember, it’s about working in a partnership with suppliers, and not dictating changes. Go to the table with your suppliers and work together.”

The article copy flows from the big circular economy picture to specific details for implementing a successful zero waste program. Nadereh advises "“Look for small wins, and build on those foundations.”

As the article closes, the importance of corporate culture is emphasized with Holly's quote:
 “It’s a matter of corporate culture, stemming from the C-suite, the board of directors and the stockholders. Sustainability is a long-term commitment that requires, at times, short-term investments or temporary financial shortcomings. But in the long run, if it is done with integrity and committed planning with the right resources plugged in, the ROI will be there."

Global leaders like Dell are grounding the pathway to a future circular economy; national icons like Piazza Produce and EFP are substantiating the current economics inherent within strong materials management

With the USGBC and prominent trade associations embracing zero waste as a core business value, zero waste moves beyond best operating practices into standard operating practices. Stay tuned to witness how the powerful synergies flow into a "world without waste!"

2 comments:

  1. Thank you for all your work to help people move to the world without waste, Holly. And especially, thank you for taking part in my article and sharing it widely. Much appreciated.

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    1. Hi Lisa! Thank you for your nice compliment and recognizing Elemental Impact's important work. I was highly honored with the quote placements in your excellent article. Andrew Morlet, Ellen MacArthur Foundation CEO, wrote back with a nice compliment on your article. Love working with you! Holly

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