Here are eight companies that have recently achieved zero-waste status at individual facilities, or even throughout their entire operation:
In 2015, beverage and chocolate maker Nestle USA achieved landfill-free status at all of its 23 U.S.-based facilities. These facilities run the gamut of confections, dairy, frozen and refrigerated meals, baking ingredients, and beverages.
In reaching the landfill-free status, Chairman and CEO Paul Grimwood stated:
“This is an especially noteworthy achievement given the breadth and complexity of our manufacturing operations across a variety of categories.”
Grimwood reaffirmed the company’s commitment to working with all staff too ensure their factories remain landfill-free, as they continually find “new ways to reduce our environmental impact at each stage of the product lifecycle.”
Nestle USA’s current efforts include composting, recycling, energy production, and the provision of safe products for animal feed.
For the last six years, juice and water producer Sunny Delight Beverages Co. has achieved zero waste.
According to Ellen Iobst, the company’s chief sustainability officer and senior vice president, “Achieving zero-waste-to-landfill was difficult, but even more challenging is maintaining zero-waste-to-landfill. This accomplishment requires creativity, innovation and tenacity from people who are passionate about environmental stewardship.”
And that stewardship is a large component of the company’s vision. Other environmental improvements recently made by Sunny Delight include:
Subaru was the first auto assembly plant in North America to throw the full weight of its organization behind the push to achieve zero waste. In fact, it’s been a veteran of zero-waste-to-landfill since 2004. Currently, all of Subaru’s manufacturing waste is either recycled or converted into electricity.
But the road to zero waste was not necessarily a simple one for Subaru. Rather, it evolved from employees’ “1000 great ideas” put into place as part of the company’s continuous improvement philosophy.
Subaru meticulously tracks waste in bar-coded containers. It also reuses little “bits and pieces” that are not typically considered worthwhile when running a huge industrial plant.
Because of their success, the auto maker is now teaching other companies how to achieve zero waste in their businesses.
Unilever North America, which markets consumer goods, achieved 100% zero waste at all its North American distribution centers in 2013. According to company officials, reducing waste sent for disposal is a critical component of the Unilever “Sustainable Living Plan.” Established in 2010, the plan aims to halve Unilever’s environmental footprint from the making and use of its products by 2020.
The company’s eco-friendly processes include inventory management, composting, creating animal feed, recycling packaging and generating biodiesel fuel. Eliminating waste in distribution centers has resulted in annual cost savings of more than $1.9 million for Unilever.
As of 2014, seven of MillerCoors‘ eight major breweries, as well as its corporate headquarters, had achieved zero-waste status.
To do so, the company eliminated 65 tons of waste—and 1,000 trash bags at its corporate offices alone—which was previously sent to the landfill each week from the Milwaukee campus. The brewery also reduced its waste by 19%, now generating just 15 tons of waste per month. This residual waste is sent to a waste-to-energy facility in Wisconsin, which uses it to generate 20% of the area’s electricity.
According to Kim Marotta, MillerCoors Director of Sustainability, the plan is for the entire company achieve zero waste by 2020. She also stated that the zero-waste effort has been a major focal point for employee engagement. Overall, the company has reduced landfill waste by 448 tons each year.
Chocolate giant Mars Inc. achieved its goal of zero-waste-to-landfill for all 126 of its global locations in 2015. All waste from all locations is now recycled, reused or used as fuel onsite.
The zero-waste status was achieved through a variety of methods. For instance, in Poznan, Poland, excess gum waste is now cut and mixed with other materials and used as fuel. Also, leftover sweeteners are purified and used as an energy source for manufacturing.
And in Asquith, Australia, disposable solid waste is sent to an off-site bioreactor. The resulting methane is harnessed to generate alternative energy, which is directed back into the electricity grid.
The following video clip highlights these and other innovations:
As a result, the candy maker has annually reduced total waste emissions by 4,500 metric tons, which is enough to fill 35 football fields 12 inches deep.
In 2014 Underwriters Laboratories issued its zero-waste claim validation to Bridgestone Americas‘ tire manufacturing plant in Wilson, North Carolina. It was the first such designation for Bridgestone. The plant claims 14% of its stream goes for waste-to-energy (WTE), and that a majority of its WTE diversion (11%) is the best possible use for that material.
In order to achieve zero waste, Bridgestone’s leadership worked with disposal partner Waste Management Sustainability Services. Together they identified all remnant waste materials from their factories (such as whole scrap tires, rubber components and packaging), as well as from their offices and cafeterias.
Diamond Packaging, which helps box products for major consumer goods companies, achieved zero manufacturing waste to landfill status in 2014. The company accounts for all waste related to the manufacture of folding cartons. This includes paperboard, plastic, metal, industrial waste and regulated waste.
To achieve this goal, Diamond’s two manufacturing facilities reduced their overall waste streams and increased recycling rates to about 98%. All remaining waste is sent for fuels blending or to Covanta Energy for waste-to-energy.
It should be noted that some environmentalists contend that including waste-to-energy in the mix is not truly “zero waste.” They claim that burning waste destroys resources and doesn’t reduce waste.
In addition, there are concerns that some companies may be “greenwashing,” that is, promoting themselves as better environmental stewards than they really are.
Nevertheless, the number of zero-waste operations is definitely piling up. And that can’t be a bad thing.