Zero Waste Myths
Going zero waste doesn’t happen overnight, especially for businesses and corporations that have a wide array of employees, operations and logistics to consider first. While the goal of zero waste is to reduce consumption, reuse as much as possible, send nothing to a landfill and - as a last alternative - to recycle and compost leftover waste, this theory is not always possible in reality. If your facility is thinking about joining the zero-waste movement, but you’re not sure where to start or how to make the commitment, don’t worry. In order to start on your journey to zero waste, it is important to first break down the myths and assumptions that might be a roadblock. After that, you can better prioritize sustainable practices that make sense for your business. We’re gathered up four of the myths here:.
1. Myth: Going zero waste is impossible for companies
Going from producing an abundance of waste to producing no waste is not an easy task, but it is not impossible. Look at large corporations like Procter & Gamble and Nestle, for example. Their facilities send almost no waste to landfills, at a large scale. This requires patience, dedication and emotional investment from employees. It also requires a detailed plan and timeline. It could take months or even years until a company reaches zero waste status, so it is important to approach the situation realistically and plan to make changes gradually.
It is also important to understand that people today are used to getting things quickly, cheaply and easily, so it is a common mindset to discard of things quickly, too. While this mindset could be difficult to change with employees, employers can make it easier with educational programs and incentives. If you create mindful policies and provide the correct infrastructure, it will be easier for the team to participate in a zero-waste lifestyle at work.
2. Myth: Zero waste costs too much money for companies
In reality, implementing zero-waste strategies could actually help save your company money. This misconception comes from the thought that you must buy elaborate or expensive reusable substitutes to replace cheaper single-use items, which isn’t true. When your company decides to go on this sustainable route, there may be an initial investment for replacing single-use items but in the long run they will pay for themselves. For example, consider an office with disposable coffee cups. These cups must be reordered every month, and you must pay a waste hauler to pick up the trash that they fill. If you replace them with reusable mugs, you not only keep waste out of the landfill, but also save money by not having to order new cups every month. The same goes for companies who decide to go paperless: digital files means no more expensive print outs and wasted ink cartridges. It’s little changes like this that make going zero waste sustainable for the company’s bank account, too.
3. Myth: One company doesn't really make a difference
False. Every person and every company is important when it comes to sustainability. When choosing to implement zero waste policies at your facility, the positive impact is immeasurable. Individuals produce so much trash without thought everyday, so when you compound the waste created by all employees, it adds up. Reducing, reusing, recycling and composting will keep an enormous amount of trash out of the landfill whether your business is big or small. A sustainable work environment will also inspire employees to be more eco-friendly at home and others in your industry to reduce their environmental footprint, too.
4. Myth: Zero waste means all or nothing
Technically zero waste means sending nothing to the landfill, but don’t let that expectation be intimidating. If there is no way to ensure that all waste is eliminated, recycled or diverted, that is okay. Some operations have stipulations that require the production of waste - like biohazard items that cannot be safely reused or recycled, for example - but that doesn’t mean you should give up on the idea of going zero waste entirely. You can adapt a zero waste policy that fits the needs of your business. For example, if your manufacturing facility cannot go zero waste for logistical reasons, concentrate on becoming zero waste in the corporate office portion of your company. The most important thing is that your business is committed to wasting less in general and becoming more sustainable.
Going zero waste takes time, dedication and the prioritization of sustainable practices. If you are considering going zero waste, join the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) or join the Zero Waste USA community for further education, support and encouragement on living zero waste.