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Stepping Stones to Zero Waste to Landfill

Emily Hare
May 12, 2020

We’re all living in challenging times while the Coronavirus pandemic continues. For some this can put extra pressure on putting environmental goals into motion, for others it can be a useful time to reflect on your goals and familiarise yourself with the basic principles to achieving them. In April I faced the challenge of leading and presenting a webinar from home which thankfully went smoothly and my dog didn’t try and get involved. For anybody who didn’t attend, I thought it would be useful to go through the key steps we covered.

Steps to working towards Zero Waste to Landfill

If you are already looking at achieving zero waste to landfill then the benefits and reasons for this target should already be obvious, I’m mostly asked about what to include and how others achieve it, so these key steps from the webinar should help! However, if you still need convincing, the key benefits of certification include the diversion of waste from clogging up our planet when there could be a more environmental or profitable waste stream. On top of this, the commercial advantage of a certification that resonates with just about anybody (we all know what landfill is and we all know that we want less of it).

Planning

We advise businesses to spend a lot of time on the planning stage, so that targets are clear and concise. It is worth starting off by asking yourself a few questions to get the ball rolling: why is zero waste to landfill the target for you? It might fit into wider aims your company has like working towards the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, or you might see it as a step on the ladder to circular economy. The further you move your waste up the waste hierarchy the more circular your business can become.

Other questions include; are you going to focus just on operational waste, or all waste produced? If you have multiple sites do you want to include all of them? Or perhaps start with one or two and then work your way up increasing the number of sites meeting and achieving the target? Who else needs to be involved both internally and externally? Some stakeholders will be more obvious than others, for example IT departments getting rid of old equipment or cleaners disposing of things like hygiene waste may not immediately spring to mind when thinking about the scope of the project. Lastly at this stage you will want to establish when you want to achieve your goal and is that timescale realistic?

Once you know the answers you can move onto the next step and make sure your timescales are attainable.

Establishing the baseline

Carry out a waste audit. Doing so will enable you to establish all waste streams handled and where they come from. Depending on the scope you set out in the planning stage you’ll need to check all waste streams, even those you’re not responsible for such as hygiene waste or IT equipment. You will also want to consider any ad hoc materials. You will then need to map your waste to understand where it goes when it leaves your sites.

We use our waste audit template alongside our Waste Tracker platform to help a range of retailers and manufacturers understand their starting position on their zero waste to landfill journey. This stage is almost a sub-section of planning as it can help to show how close you are to your target and what additional changes you may need to make to achieve your goal.

Implementation

Once planning and audits have taken place you can create an action plan for implementation. This should contain key performance indicators and deadlines for staff to meet. This plan should be launched across the business so that everyone can get involved and should also include your waste contractors.

For some of the companies we’ve audited in the past this can often be the stage where they get in touch with Valpak to get some expert advice and check they haven’t missed anything. Our Recycling Services Team can also help divert any waste streams from landfill where possible.

Use your action plan as an opportunity to think outside the box and see what different possibilities there are for your waste. Here are a few examples to inspire you from work we’ve been involved with:

  • A chewing gum manufacturer we work with moved their gum waste away from high energy incineration to be recycled into the soles of shoes.
  • Offset Print and Packaging created a closed loop for their packaging offcuts so anything they can’t use will come back to their site in the future to help them make more packaging.
  • A domestic appliance manufacturer we work with donated out of date consumables to staff rather than sending them to energy from waste.    

There are many other examples out there if you need more inspiration.

Monitoring and reporting

Some business may fall short when it comes to monitoring and reporting, as success will depend on your timescales and good KPIs. Collating the information provided from your waste contractors into one place is essential as it will help to keep staff engaged, flag up any issues or changes in the type or volume of waste you produce and enable you to create reports that can be communicated to senior staff.

Depending on how much waste you produce, anything from a simple spreadsheet or Valpak’s Waste Tracker platform can help you keep on track with monitoring. Either way it puts you in the driving seat to meet your target.

Review

Depending on your original scope you may have multiple review stages. This stage can be used for checking processes or any changes you may need to make to the implementation stage a second time around. For others this stage will be verifying that you have definitely met your target.

You will need to cross check your scope with your monitoring system to make sure you have achieved what you wanted to at the start of your journey.

An increasing number of companies are looking to get their zero waste to landfill status externally checked, which is where Valpak’s Zero Waste to Landfill Certification can help. This provides an industry recognised standard independent verification; giving companies much more confidence to talk publicly about their achievements and not be caught in secret sustainability.

We help you make the most of your hard work by enabling companies to promote the achievement with a range of PR support and use of our logo. Many of our customers have told us that the Certification has improved the opportunities they’ve had with new customers.

If you would like further information about any of the services mentioned in this blog, please call 03450 682 572 or email me at zerowastetolandfill@valpak.co.uk.

 

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Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this weblog represent those of the individual authors and not those of Valpak Limited or any other organisation.