What is zero waste?

Zero waste means working towards producing less waste and reducing waste through recycling, reuse, and resource efficiency, with the ultimate goal of closing that loop.

Going zero waste does not mean that you will be under pressure to produce no waste at all immediately. Moving towards zero waste means that you commit to putting a plan in place to deal seriously with waste. It begins taking a closer look at your current waste management practices, including what you throw away, your current waste and recycling programs, and even what you buy.

Effective waste management is one of the most impactful things you can do to improve your business operations, achieve your sustainability goals, and control your waste costs, which are going up every year. Going zero waste starts with effective waste management.

How to be a zero waste business?

By developing programs and policies for reducing, reusing and recycling materials that would otherwise be destined for other outcomes, zero waste organizations are leading the charge.

Start with a waste audit

The primary objective of this step is to understand the waste stream that your business generates.

A waste audit is a detailed analysis of waste generation, management, and disposal during a given period. It involves categorizing waste types and sources, as well as collecting, sorting, weighing, and recording them. It also includes identifying which items are being recycled and which ones are going to the landfill. Businesses need to develop a thorough understanding of their waste stream to be able to manage it efficiently.

Investigate if you have enough recycling or waste collection bins available and positioned for best results. For example, if a recycling bin is located further away than a conveniently positioned trash bin, busy workers might be motivated to toss recyclables into the garbage.

Establish waste reduction goals

Some goals will be realized more quickly than others. For example, requesting suppliers to convert to a reusable packaging system to eliminate the generation of packaging waste may take months to coordinate, while changing inputs to include recycled or remanufactured content, for example, might take a longer timeframe to realize. Creating a monthly or yearly goal can be a great way to ensure you are on track to become a Zero Waste business.

Short term goal achievement is also an excellent way to generate enthusiasm among employees and customers and signal to other stakeholders your resolve towards eliminating waste.

Educate your team

After setting goals, you or your team needs to establish and follow specific strategies. Engaging employees is one of the most critical steps in implementing policies. Raising employee awareness in conjunction with providing the training and resources needed to succeed are essential steps of your Zero Waste journey. Ultimately, your perspective should shift from waste reduction to resource conservation.

Educate your clientele

More and more consumers are looking into sustainability as opposed to just price and performance when choosing what products to buy and which brands to buy from. In a survey of 54 of the world’s leading brands, almost all of them reported that consumers are showing increasing care about sustainable lifestyles. At the same time, surveys on consumers in the US and UK show that they also care about minimizing energy use and reducing waste. By offering zero waste alternatives, your business is promising sustainability and durability to consumers while receiving the reputational gains for being environmentally friendly.

A stronger relationship between you and your client isn’t just about financial incentives. By creating more awareness around your efforts to reduce waste, and by developing a culture of responsibility, recycle, and reuse, you can build customer loyalty based on shared values and responsibilities.

Develop waste reduction strategies

Once you have set waste reduction goals, implement appropriate strategies and actions to achieve them. Waste diversion, waste reduction, and waste prevention are the three most important approaches. Waste reduction and prevention can be challenging to achieve. They can require collaboration with suppliers and possibly other supply chain stakeholders.

Why be a zero waste business?

Zero waste protects the environment, benefits communities and supports a strong local economy.  Going zero waste helps organizations rescue the value in what they are landfilling.

Reduces Costs

The World Bank estimated that the world produced 3.5 million tons of solid waste per day in 2010, and that amount is projected to double by 2025. That’s not only a lot of trash, but it’s also a lot of lost value – as much as $2.6 trillion annually in raw materials and residual worth. Landfill waste is a double loss: wasted product, and wasted natural resources to produce the product in the first place. The world can’t afford to use up water, forests, food, minerals, fossil fuels, or any natural resource in this way.” — Toward A Zero Waste Future, Walmart Sustainability Report.

Statistics:
Hewlett Packard in Roseville, California reduced its waste by 95% and saved $870,564 in 1998
Xerox Corp., Rochester, New York has had a Waste-Free Factory environmental performance goal since the early 1990s, with a savings of $45M in 1998.

Increases competitiveness

Eliminating waste production in your operation can improve the material flow and lower costs in your business, which would provide a competitive advantage. Thus, avoiding and reducing waste can help the bottom line of your business in several ways.

As more companies begin to realize the benefits of going zero waste, those that don’t will lose the value of what they are landfilling, pay higher costs in waste removal, incur a bigger carbon footprint, and suffer in their corporate social responsibility reputation as well as employee and customer goodwill.

In the long term, they will slip behind in operational efficiency and become less competitive. For companies and cities alike, zero waste is the future of waste management.

Supports sustainability

A Zero Waste strategy supports Triple Bottom Line sustainability goals of economic well-being, environmental protection, and social well-being.

Economic well-being is enhanced by solid waste elimination and improved production efficiencies. Environmental protection is promoted through the consumption of less new raw materials from nature, and the elimination of waste materials returned to nature. Social well-being is heightened through improvements that better safeguard society’s scarce resources, as well as through the creation of new jobs in the “closed loop” processing associated with the reuse and reprocessing of materials.

Ignites faster progress

By nature of its visionary endpoint, Zero Waste leads to a more systematic approach than piecemeal initiatives around the reduction in pollution or solid waste, which leads to faster progress towards sustainability.

Enhances branding

If you implement a Zero Waste policy, you can brand and market your business as a “Green Business.” Customers increasingly want to see tangible proof of environmentally responsible operation of organizations they support. Becoming a Zero Waste company can help you build trust with customers, partners, and local communities.

Waste reduction strategies

Waste reduction can save your business the cost of waste management and disposal as well as the regulatory complications that can accompany emissions and waste generation.

Energy efficiency

Zero waste means working towards producing less waste and reducing waste through recycling, reuse, and resource efficiency, with the ultimate goal of closing that loop. Going zero waste does not mean that you will be under pressure to produce no waste at all immediately. Moving towards zero waste means that you commit to putting a plan in place to deal seriously with waste. It begins taking a closer look at your current waste management practices, including what you throw away, your current waste and recycling programs, and even what you buy.

Effective waste management is one of the most impactful things you can do to improve your business operations, achieve your sustainability goals, and control your waste costs, which are going up every year. Going zero waste starts with effective waste management.

Reuse

Packaging materials account for one of the most significant portions of waste generated. Where reverse logistics is feasible, consider switching to reusable alternatives. Also, pooled solutions are increasingly being looked at as an opportunity to use high-quality reusables on a cost-per-use basis that is competitive with purchasing lesser quality expendable solutions.

Recycle

Miami Beach follows a single-stream recycling process. It is the process by which certain recyclable materials are mixed together instead of being sorted into separate recycling containers in the collection process. Per Section 90-340 and 90-341 of the Miami Beach Code, single stream recycling must allow for the following items to be recycled while commercial establishments must have a minimum of three of the following items as part of their recycling service:

Newspaper. Used or discarded newsprint, including any glossy inserts.

Glass. Glass, jars, bottles, and containers of clear, green or amber (brown) color of any size or shape used to store and/or packaged food and beverage products for human or animal consumption, and/or used to package other products, which must be empty and rinsed clean of residue. This term excludes ceramics, window or automobile glass, mirrors, and light bulbs.

Metal food and beverage containers. All ferrous and nonferrous (i.e., including, but not limited to, steel, tin-plated steel, aluminum and bimetal) food and beverage containers (i.e., including, but not limited to, cans, plates, and trays) of any size or shape used to store and/or packaged food and beverage products suitable for human or animal consumption, which must be empty and rinsed clean of residue.

Other metal containers. All other ferrous and nonferrous containers used to package household products including, but not limited to, paint cans and aerosol cans, which must be empty and rinsed clean of residue.

Plastics. All high density polyethylene (HDPE) and/or polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, jugs, jars, cartons, tubs, and/or other containers, and lids, of any size or shape used to package food, beverages, and/or other household products, or crankcase oil, which must be empty and rinsed clean of residue. This term excludes all plastic film, plastic bags, vinyl, rigid plastic (i.e., toys), and plastic foam materials.

Textiles.

Wood. Clean wood waste and/or pieces generated as by-products from the manufacturing of wood products. It excludes clean yard waste and clean waste (i.e., natural vegetation and minerals such as stumps, brush, blackberry vines, tree branches, and associated dirt, sand, tree bark, sand and rocks), treated lumber, wood pieces, or particles containing chemical preservatives, composition roofing, roofing paper, insulation, sheetrock, and glass.

Compost

Composting or anaerobic digestion can play a significant role in achieving Zero Waste for many companies. Such approaches can benefit any business looking to divert troublesome food waste or soiled paper towels from the trash. In Miami Beach, there are a few spots where you can drop off your compost scraps to be turned into a natural fertilizer that will grow pesticide-free plants, fruits, and veggies.

Miami Beach Botanical Garden – drop off Tuesday through Sunday, between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m.

Back2Earth (Various locations) – drop off any time during regular operating hours, and on Saturday and Sunday at the Wynwood location

Earth ‘n’ Us Farm (Little River) – drop off during regular operating hours

Cerasee Farms (Liberty City) – drop off to the team Monday and Wednesday through Saturday from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. If they’re closed, there are bins where you can drop compost off.