In recent years the UK has witnessed a trend for companies racing to claim their zero waste to landfill status.
However, dig below the surface and it is often the case that ‘zero waste to landfill’ is achieved by switching from one form of disposal (landfill) to another (Energy from Waste (EfW)). Although EfW is indeed a form of recovery and higher up the Defra waste management hierarchy, is this really the end goal and is the ‘zero waste to landfill’ badge enough?
Having conducted waste audits for several years, I’ve found the big wins aren’t in managing waste at the lower levels of the waste hierarchy (disposal/recovery) but rather are at the top of the hierarchy, where prevention is king.
Waste prevention is where the greatest environmental and cost benefits are to be found. If you don’t have to pay for the materials that end up as waste, you then don’t have to pay for their disposal. The result is not just a double financial win, but also a significant environmental benefit.
However, with a slogan as strong as ‘ZERO WASTE TO LANDFILL’, how do you educate organisations to look beyond this and strive for the real savings beyond this label?
Valpak recently launched a zero waste to landfill independent auditing service. However, the key difference in our approach is that, to gain certification, organisations must not only achieve zero waste to landfill, but must also agree to improve the front end management of their waste. Is this a sensible approach or too prescriptive? Should we as an industry be happy with organisations taking this first bold step in achieving zero waste to landfill? Is it enough?