Looking to start a zero-waste program? We can help.
Zero-waste programs are growing trends in various segments throughout North America due in part to increased interest in environmental sustainability, added recycling infrastructure, and heightened awareness of climate change. From public schools to private businesses, these initiatives are playing vital roles in sustainability efforts. On top of being environmentally critical, these programs can be economically beneficial.
Initial challenges of implementing a successful zero-waste program might include existing hauling (etc.) contract constraints, capital expense considerations, lack of recycling / organic collection infrastructure, and facilitating the necessary behavioral change. Therefore it is essential to have a well thought out plan requiring a collaborative effort from multiple industry and departmental stakeholders.
The path to zero-waste can be a long and challenging journey with no one size fits all solution. Below are recommended items to consider when implementing a zero-waste program at your facility (whether it be a school, government agency building, sporting venue, private office space, etc.):
Form Zero-Waste Program Team
It is important to establish a Zero-Waste team that is representative of as many different departments and layers within the organization as possible. This will help organizational buy in and help ensure long term success.
Local and State Law
Review state, county, municipal laws and regulations regarding plastics recycling, paper collection/processing, and organic collection/processing.
- Investigate possible available grant money at state, county, and municipal law
Have thorough understanding of existing hauling contracts (can contracted waste hauler accept dedicated recyclied streams, post-consumer plastic/food scraps, SSO, etc), concessionary contracts, leasing agreements, etc.
- Understanding rate structure for all waste streams, including contamination fines and surcharges.
Hauling and Waste
Establish hauler options for recyclable materials (plastics, glass, aluminum, paper, oil, etc.) and compostable materials.
- Determine what is accepted for each material stream (post-consumer food waste, proteins, post-consumer food service plastics, etc.)
- Define contamination targets and allowances accepted by processor
- Are there contamination enforcement options?
- Understanding capacity constraints at processing centers
Perform a baseline waste stream audit to understand content of waste generated. This information helps establish goals and tracking performance rates.
- Depending on the venue, generate metrics for both back of the house (pre-consumer) and front of the house (post-consumer)
- Percent breakdown of organics (food scrap), paper, recyclable plastics, landfill.
Control of Product Supply
If using single use food service wares (in cafeterias, break station, etc.) it's important to include a purchasing provision that mandates all food service ware products are certified compostable by the BPI and compliant to ASTM D6400. This will help eliminate sort anxiety (thus increase program participation) and reduce landfill waste contribution.
Sorting Stations and Signage
To ensure participation and to eliminate confusion (which will reduce contamination), it is important to have readily available sort stations sufficient for all waste streams with effective signage and messaging in addition to on-going educational messaging engagement with employees, fans, residents, etc.
- Consistent color coding signs and bins
- Photos of products on signs to help eliminate confusion
- Multiple sort locations
- Effective sign placement (for example, above sorting stations)
On-going employee and client engagement is essential for long term success and behavioral change. It is important that messaging remain consistent, yet creative and ideally through various media platforms (signs, social media, public announcements, etc.)
- Post diversion metrics to share success stories
- Have short, informative videos, signs, emails, etc. on environmental and financial impact.
Looking for More Information? Check out the Curb To Compost Toolkit: http://compostfoundation.org/curb-to-compost/#toc