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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Zero Waste is a Team Sport

Zero waste initiatives require a consciousness shift on numerous levels. To achieve the accepted 90% diversion rate, organizations must replace common thought patterns with a holographic consciousness. In simplistic terms, the following are three initial shifts necessary for zero waste to replace landfill waste:

First, the "pay and forget" era is over; the consumer must take responsibility for the by-products generated from their activities and ensure materials are reused or recycled. The Elemental Impact Recycling Integrity page dives deeper into the holographic approach necessary to ensure integrity is maintained throughout the entire material management process.

manure-filled bedding awaiting
its next step in the perpetual life cycle
Second, waste management is replaced by materials / by-products management. In nature there is no "waste"; it is time to emulate nature's perpetual life cycle system.The ZWA Blog post, Perpetual Life Cycle System - Simplicity is Key, introduces PLCS using an on-farm anaerobic digester as an example of a system following nature's no-waste baseline.

Third, the "I" focus is replaced with the "WE" focus. The impact of our actions extends to the entire community and beyond; collective action accomplishes more profound results than singular effort. By working together, synergies are unlocked, unnecessary boundaries, including competitive barriers, disintegrate, and creative energies catapult possibilities into grounded realities.

Zero waste initiatives offer tangible opportunities to incorporate the consciousness shifts into standard operating practices. Once a company accepts the first two shifts, action is ready to begin with the third shift.

Doug Kunnemann, John Livengood,
Amy Moreland & Scott Lutocka
Integral to the "WE" consciousness is each component of the recycling value chain must make a reasonable profit for a sustainable, long-lasting system to develop. Example: with team effort, neighboring companies may create sufficient route density and quantities to justify the recycling company's transportation and labor costs.

On a recent Indianapolis Ei Industry Tour of Piazza Produce's zero waste distribution center, the group witnessed the powerful impact of superlative team effort. Facility manager Scott Lutocka uses amazing creativity to accomplish his zero waste goals and motivate others to join the team. Purchasing cool box cutters was the trigger point to generate enthusiasm for cardboard box break-down prior to baling.

Baled cardboard ready
for sale
Scott used a "big brother is watching" technique to break the habit of employees depositing cardboard in the trash compactor. With a facility-wide surveillance system, Scott could witness the culprits trashing valuable cardboard. It only took a few company-wide announcements "Excuse me, that cardboard is not trash" to establish a new habit of placing cardboard in the recycling bin.

Working within the "WE" context involves compromise and understanding others' perspectives. Once Scott scolded a tired, frustrated truck driver for not separating his recyclables. The driver's unrepeatable response was the catalyst for an on-site mini-MRF (materials recovery facility) where materials are separated by staff with specific recycling responsibilities.  

Once the valuable material is separated for recycling, the the remaining "trash" becomes the focal point.  As with most companies, Scott learned packaging was his biggest challenge.  Using team spirit and creativity, Scott works with his suppliers to shift packaging to reusable | returnable or recycling options.  

No more glue in the packaging
Upon Scott's request, an herb supplier stopped gluing the polystyrene liner to the cardboard box. When glued the entire packaging was trash, without the adhesive the polystyrene and cardboard are easily separated and recycled.  MULTIPLE WIN: the producer saves money by eliminating the gluing process!

Diligent, persistent effort brought Piazza close to the 90% zero waste diversion rate yet not over the threshold. Food waste collection for composting was the next big hurdle, requiring a community "WE" effort. Without a permitted composting site in the area nor a hauler equipped for handling food waste, Scott's relentless team leadership was imperative to success.

GreenCycle's mulching facility
John Repenning of GreenCycle, a local mulching and landscape product company, joined the team,  GreenCycle met the appropriate state regulations for food waste composting and accepted Piazza's food waste at one of their several Indy mulching facilities. A local waste hauler worked with Scott on a viable solution for food waste hauling to GreenCycle.

With food waste compost bound, Piazza Produce is officially zero waste!

Zero Waste Icon Scott
Lutocka on plastic film bale
Piazza Produce success is grounded in the required consciousness shifts. The "WE"  is Scott's natural operating mode and at the foundation for Piazza's zero waste leadership role.  Soon the industry will follow due to pure economics as Piazza has an impressive improved bottom line from turning waste cost into recycling revenue.

For details on Piazza's zero waste program, visit the Ei FB album, 09-24-12 Piazza Produce Zero Waste Tour, With his generous spirit, Scott provided additional details in the comment sections.  The Ei FB album, 09-24-12 GreenCycle Mulching Site Tour, gives a pictorial recap of the GreenCycle tour.

Astute business leaders realize the consciousness shift is imminent and are on the Zero Waste Team. Others are waiting until more secure paths are built. The Perpetual LIfe Cycle System Team is in the creation process - YOU are invited to join!


  1. Food waste recycling grand rapids mi makes a lot of sense, why aren't more companies looking into it as an alternative?
    food waste recycling grand rapids

  2. Florence, you ask a very pertinent and relevent question! Unfortunately, for too many businesses, it's "Status Quo as Usual". They are either incapable or unwilling to 'Think outside of the Box'. There are solutions, but a company must get passed the point of making excuses for not implementing sustainable strategies. Not only have we achieved Zero Waste, but we've turned our Trash into Cash! Teamwork and passion can change everything!

  3. I admired your recycling work, Scott. I really want to implement recycling activities in my small 6-person office. At least half of them have "Status Quo as Usual" and not unwilling to 'Think outside of the Box' because of wasting their time to sort "trash."

    Can you suggest what I should do so I can indirectly persuade them to participate? I know the economic incentive is not as high as your company. We are just simple office trash, w/paper, cans, plastic bottles mainly.

    Some of the opinions I always are:
    Why & who cares about recycling in this small office?
    You can't force people to sort their trash
    I don't think I need to do it as technology somewhere can solve the problem.

    I know I can't argue with them because it's like religion, which derives & believes internally.

  4. Brian, thank you for your kind comments. I appreciate your willingness to step forward and to attempt to implement an office environment recycling program.

    First, let's keep one of my favorite quotes in mind, as it has been a key concept in my Zero Waste Journey. "I'd rather have 1% of the effort of 100 men than 100% of my own effort." ~ J. Paul Getty.

    In a small office environment such as yours, you can be the recycling leader and champion but in order to be successful, it will take a little effort on the parts of your co-workers.

    As of now, half are demonstrating what I like to refer to as "stinking-thinking". These responses are somewhat typical of this type of undertaking as it is common in human nature to resist change. In order to gain acceptance, cooperation, and effort, we must use a positive approach with them. Let's use their objections and look at it from a professional salespersons viewpoint. What they are actually saying is that "I'm saying 'No...!' because I don't fully comprehend what it is that you want me to do and I don't fully understand how a little office can make a difference." Your challenge is then to offer answers to their objections in an effort to overcome them with facts and rationality. Once you've conveyed the answers to their unasked questions, you can typically gain their acceptance and therefore overcome their objections. To you and me, they are making a big deal about nothing. Kill them with respect and kindness.

    I can share with you our office recycling program. Basically, I added a Blue Recycling Logo'd container in addition to their current waste container. I then provided them with a list of what goes into that Blue container (copy paper, Post-It Notes, envelopes, tissue boxes (not tissues, napkins, etc.). As for plastic beverage and aluminim & glass containers, I added a separate (Rubbermaid "Slim Jim") Recycle container with round holes in the lid that was lined with a poly can liner. You may locate one next to the water cooler or break room. The key is to keep it simple, accessible, and emptied on a regular or "as-needed" basis. I learned in my IFMA conducted Sustainability Class that some offices even have their employees empty their waste and recycling containers into the proper larger collection units.

    Now I don't know other pertinent information about your office such as whether the building has recycling available by the local refuse company or if you intended on taking it to an appropriate recycling center in your community.

    Or, you can start with the half that has indicated that they'd participate. The others might see that they've been left out and see that it was no big deal after all.

    We can continue this discussion via email or a phone call if you'd like. Good Luck and I will look forward to hearing about your near-future success!

    "The hardest part of any journey is simply taking the first step!"

  5. Thank you to Brian for your determination to bring recycling to your office. Remember within the "WE" Consciousness is the Power of One, as the "WE" is a collection of the power inherent within the connected individuals.

    Scott, you continue to amaze me! Thanks for taking the time to write a thorough response to Brian with simple, effective action points. It is an honor to work with you and call you my friend!