How To Be A Zero Waste To Landfill Business
Before we get involved in the ‘how’, we thought it would be a good idea to start this guide with the ‘who’, showing you some of the UK’s best examples of zero waste to landfill companies. These businesses have made a strategy, a culture, and a series of decisions that have led them to this point; to say it’s impossible for your company to do the same is to accept defeat without even trying.
Midlands Co-operative Society
We found this awesome piece over on the Guardian, telling the story of how a large regional retailer with 172 stores managed to be the first in the UK to reach zero waste to landfill across their entire business. Their solution was to use anaerobic digestion for all food waste and use the methane captured from this activity to help run a local bioenergy plant, with a biofertilizer byproduct.
Non-food waste is taken to a central depot where it is sorted, separated, compacted, dried, shredded, and put through a process called pyrolysis, which creates a green fuel that can be used for energy.
The group has since merged with Anglia Regional Co-operative Society to form the Central England Co-operative Society.
The construction industry alone creates more waste than all households in the UK put together, so when we heard of a house-building company that has gone zero waste to landfill at their offices, it’s a great start. Bovis Homes in Gloucestershire implemented a careful green strategy that saw all of their bins replaced by single-waste streams. Interestingly, the spur for their change were the GDPR laws, which saw them undertake a waste audit that spotted the opportunity to become zero waste. Let’s hope this mentality is carried on to their sites.
It’s little known that Gatwick Airport is perhaps the most sustainable airport in the UK, with both a carbon neutral accreditation and a zero waste to landfill certification. They started their journey by finding ways to reduce wastage, and reuse items, such as by investing in specialist coffee cups. Most interestingly, it is the first airport in the world that has built its own recycling plant on site to handle all of the waste and turn it into energy!
As well as this, the runways are powered by LED lights which use 90% less energy than before, and the terminals are fed energy from 100% renewable sources.
Hugh Jones, Managing Director of Carbon Trust Business Services, said: “Gatwick is setting an excellent example, showing how a business can improve its operational efficiency and its environmental results at the same time, as well as encouraging higher levels of action elsewhere by positively influencing other companies that operate at the airport site.”
Airsprung is a furniture company with sites across the UK, but they have also joined the world of zero waste to landfill businesses. They’ve done this through three very simple methods.
- In-house teams sort all recyclable material and send it off for recycling.
- Non-recyclable waste is sent to be turned into RDF - Refuse Derived Fuel (see explanation).
- Furniture is collected through a customer recycling scheme where they take in in old items and make sure that their natural resources are used wisely.
Whilst some of the above examples took years to reach zero waste to landfill status, Spark:York took just three months, proving you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. This collective of businesses working from a small business park made of recycled shipping containers produces glass, paper, plastic and card waste, as well as other items from the bars, restaurants, shops and offices on site. Separated bins and interesting waste contracts have been the solution for Spark:York.
- Glass is crushed and used for building roads
- Steel and aluminium cans are turned back into cans
- Food waste is turned into biomass for renewable energy
- Plastic is recycled
Jo Little, Head of Marketing at Spark:York, said: “Our whole ethos is around sustainability, whether that’s by reusing old shipping containers, ensuring the food is served in biodegradable packaging or not using plastic straws or cups.”
Life cycle perspective
To have any hope of reaching zero-waste-to-landfill, you have to start being more aware of your resource consumption, and making that resource consumption sustainable before you try to eliminate it. A life cycle perspective is a good place to start. Look at all of the processes in your office.
Answer these questions
Are people making paper notes?
Is the watercooler fitted with disposable cups?
What’s the story in the office kitchen?
Why are you printing files that you could email?
What is coming into the offices in the form of deliveries, and is that creating additional packaging waste?
Are staff eating at their desks or is there a canteen?
What hazardous materials are you using and how do you get rid of them (as they have to go to landfill most of the time)?
If you’re taking payments over the phone, can you ensure that everything is done digitally, to remove the need for paper?
Can you use tablets where once you used paper (finding ways to eliminate paper wastage should be goal number one in an office)?
Are you giving people printed versions of meeting agendas when you could instead email them?
Is there a mailroom? Is your office posting stuff out? If it doesn’t need to be physical, start teaching the mail clerk to use email.
Who can help?
Talk to procurement, they have a central role in this. When they order something, it comes into the office, and will likely become waste. Create policies that encourage them to act more intelligently. Also, when it comes to furniture, make sure it’s not getting thrown into a skip.
Get your office or waste manager to make it easier to recycle than to dispose! If an employee walks past several opportunities to recycle on the way to dispose, the problem is then the employee, not the system.
Once a week, empty a communal bin and take a look at the contents. This is going to give you a lot of answers as to what your waste streams look like. Get the rubber gloves!