Waste is a sign of inefficiency of a system and/ or a process. Therefore it is no surprise that successful companies optimize processes to eliminate waste.

The report Green businesses and cities at risk: How your waste management plan may be leading you in the wrong direction makes the following recommendations for businesses and municipalities: 

  • Companies should redesign products and packaging to minimize waste creation upstream, create new delivery systems that avoid single-use disposable packaging, and as a last option, make sure products and packaging are recyclable or compostable. Companies should also use recycled content for new products and packaging, and minimize virgin material inputs.
  • To maintain the integrity of sustainability goals, businesses should avoid using any form of incineration in waste management programs for all their operations.
  • All businesses operations should aim for zero waste through careful procurement choices and waste reduction, recycling, and composting systems onsite.
  • Municipalities should also avoid all forms of incineration and aim for zero waste

These basic principles for Zero Waste Businesses are also provided by Zero Waste Europe, GAIA’s European Branch:

  • Raw materials should be obtained, whenever possible, from recycled materials and not from new extraction. Any new extraction should be only justifiable when it comes from a regenerating source. A Zero Waste company will be diverting 90% from landfill and incineration.
  • The linear system of production needs to be changed into a circular system in which the recycling potential can be maximised.
  • Production processes should be redesigned in view of avoiding the generation of waste –in and outside the facility.
  • The consumption of energy and generation of waste of the product/machine should be included in the optimisation calculations.
  • Apply eco-design and integrated product policy approach.
  • Change the focus from labour productivity to resources productivity.

Businesses have many resources to pursue these goals:

Zero Waste Facility Certification from the US Zero Waste Business Council, now part of the Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI). This facility certification program focuses on upstream policies and practices that make Zero Waste successful in an organization. (Note: while up to 10% waste disposal in landfill and/or incineration is accepted under this certification, continued certification requires showing commitment to further waste reduction.)

Before waste becomes waste, businesses make decisions about what products and packaging to use in business operations. Responsible Purchasing Network provides procurement tools and resources designed to save money, conserve resources, reduce waste, and improve efficiency.

Composting systems are critical to zero waste facilities and operations. Findacomposter.com is a directory of composting facilities in United States and Canada.

Connect to reuse businesses near you through the Reuse Alliance.

Carpets are a major waste stream for many businesses. Check out the work of GAIA & Changing Markets to learn more.

Waste to Wealth resources from ILSR include business opportunities based in waste reduction.

Health Care Without Harm offers programs for hospitals and other health facilities on Medical Waste, Toxic Materials, Safer Chemicals, Green Building and Energy, Healthy Food, Pharmaceuticals, Green Purchasing, and more.