Sustainable Practices: 'Zero Waste'

August is already here, which means the end of summer is quickly approaching. While some of us may have more time to incorporate sustainable practices in the summer, it can be harder once the busy months of fall come around. That is why this week, we wanted to highlight some companies that are making a difference when it comes to waste and ecological impact. Supporting these companies is a super easy way to encourage sustainable practices, even when you are short on time.

First, some terminology clarifications: there is a difference between 'zero waste' and 'zero waste to landfill' (or ZWTL). 'Zero waste’ refers to the philosophy behind a company’s long-term aims; ‘Zero Waste to Landfill’ is a specific goal. There are multiple organizations which give ZWTL certification, however, criteria for achieving ZWTL certification differs from one certification program to the next. Some organizations may have a very strict definition of ZWTL, while others allow some small percentage of waste to be landfilled. There are also differing opinions on Waste to Energy, which is the practice of converting non-recyclable waste into energy. Be careful when you hear that a company follows some form of zero waste practice, because that can mean a range of things! Regardless, we think the big picture goals are certainly a step in the right direction, and below are some companies whose zero waste feats are worth mentioning:

1. Unilever

Unilever is a giant when it comes to consumer products. They supply goods from food and beverages to cleaning supplies. Some of their brands include Hellmann’s, Lipton, and Ben & Jerry’s. In 2015, 240 Unilever factories achieved zero waste to landfill status. The following year, Unilever announced that over 600 sites, spanning 70 countries, had eliminated non-hazardous landfilled waste. These accomplishments were achieved in part by converting factory waste to building materials, and composting food from staff cafeterias. The company's efforts were also a smart investment for Unilever itself, saving them €200mil and creating hundreds of jobs.

2. Procter & Gamble

Procter & Gamble is another giant transnational consumer goods corporation, with brands including Bounty, Febreze and Pampers. In 2017, they announced that all manufacturing sites would eliminate sending production waste to landfills by 2020, an amount that measures 95% of the total waste which the company produces. Currently, 70% of their sites have achieved this goal. Procter & Gamble is utilizing several different techniques to eliminate landfilled waste. In Hungary, for example, they have adopted a Waste to Energy mindset by incinerating production scraps for energy to make bricks. They are also repurposing scraps to make items such as wall partitions and car wash components.

3. Nestle USA

Nestle USA is a part of Nestle S.A. They provide products from baking to pet care; well known brands include Nestle Toll House, Purina, and Poland Spring. In April of 2015, Nestle USA announced that all 23 of its factories were sending zero waste to landfills. In order to achieve this, Nestle used tactics such as composting, recycling, and energy production to dispose its waste. Nestle is making global strides as well: in 2014, 72 of Nestle’s worldwide factories achieved zero waste to landfills.

4. Mars, Incorporated

Mars is an American manufacturer with brands such as M&M’s, Uncle Ben’s, and Orbit. In 2015, they sent zero waste to landfill, and the following year they almost repeated that accomplishment by sending just 23 tons of waste to landfills. This feat required efforts such as reduced packaging, and replacing packaging with more sustainable options. Mars deviates from previous corporations in the sense that they don't fully embrace Waste to Energy; Mars lists its preferred methods of waste disposal as reducing and reusing; its lest desirable methods include recycling/composting, and recovering/energy from waste.

5. Bridgestone Americas, Inc.

Bridgestone Americas manufactures tires and rubber supplies. Their One Team, One Planet program is the parent program for all of their environmental activities, and includes efforts such as establishing wildlife habitat sites, or recovering spent tires through the Bridgestone Tires4ward program. Currently, 7 Bridgestone Americas sites have achieved and maintained zero waste to landfill. On a global scale, Bridgestone aims for a 35% reduction in CO2 emissions by 2020, and 50% reduction by 2050. Bridgestone's long-term goal is to manufacture its products from raw materials that are fully recyclable and sustainable. To this end, they have introduced tires that utilize recycled rubber products, and they have taken strides to conduct research on sustainable materials such as the guayule shrub.