Zero Waste & Zero Waste to Landfill. What’s the Difference? 

In today’s eco-conscious world, you have likely heard the terms zero waste and zero waste to landfill, and you may also think they are synonymous. In the late 1990s when the movement was first beginning, it was clear that “zero waste to landfill” was not the same thing as zero waste. As time has evolved, we no longer just focus on not sending waste to landfills. We are implementing processes within businesses that are constantly evaluating how to eliminate waste, not just how it is treated. Companies are beginning to implement a philosophy “that encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products are reused” also known as, zero waste.

Now part of the zero waste movement is the process of zero waste to landfill. Businesses that implement this into their business have identified all waste streams generated and these streams then have outlets to be recycled, reused or repurposed through management programs. Setting up these programs requires a 3rd party like, Link International, to document and audit the final disposition of waste streams being recycled, reused or repurposed, along with monthly reporting of the processes. For companies to be transparent and accurate, 3rd party companies are required to ensure that company claims of zero waste to landfill are correct.

In order for businesses to initially begin the journey of eliminating waste they first must change their culture and understanding of zero waste, which according to the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) is:

“A goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.

Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not incinerate or bury them.”

Businesses today are under pressure not just from the government, but also society norms that have moved towards a culture that supports efforts in zero waste.

So how can businesses benefit?

  • Being viewed as having Corporate Social Responsibility.
  • New business gained though company’s looking for entities with comprehensive sustainability programs in place.
  • Operation savings and recycling revenues can be discovered by reducing waste.

Companies with large distribution chains are now finding that the opportunities from the zero waste philosophy are beginning to far outweigh the consequences of not addressing waste issues. H&M, for example, not only has implemented zero waste programs into their business, but have made sustainability a vocal part of their brand and company culture. For Toyota, sustainability has been vital to the company culture. Last year alone, Toyota had “28 of the company’s North American facilities meet the US Zero Waste Business Council’s definition of a zero waste business — one with a 90 percent or greater diversion of all waste from landfill, incineration and the environment.”

If your company is considering implementing zero waste programs, now is the time to start. But before you do, make sure you hire a 3rd party company that can ensure you are meeting regulations and can claim zero waste with confidence. If you do make false claims of having zero waste program, you run the risk of losing opportunities, credibility, and integrity. With Link International, we meet you where you are and can help you at any point in your supply chain to move you towards zero waste. Contact us today to see how we can work alongside your business to help you reach your environmental goals.