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Is a Zero Waste Policy Attainable?

Michael Wilson | Jun 9, 2015

Recycle, Reduce, and Reuse. Those three words have been drilled for years as the backbone of environmental sustainability. For major corporations, though, the responsibility ...

green supply chainRecycle, Reduce, and Reuse. Those three words have been drilled for years as the backbone of environmental sustainability. For major corporations, though, the responsibility extends a bit further than that. Whatever you manufacture and distribute, it’s important to have a green supply chain so that what you produce doesn’t harm the environment. And the most popular way to do that currently is to adopt a zero waste policy.

In a zero waste policy, all materials in your supply chain that do not go directly into the products you manufacture are either recycled or otherwise eliminated. Nothing goes into landfills or gets incinerated. There is zero waste.

Proctor & Gamble’s Zero Waste Policy

One of the most prominent efforts towards a green supply chain comes from Proctor & Gamble. As outlined on their website, less than 0.5% of manufacturing waste will go to landfills or incineration, except for where waste disposal is required by law. This means that for every hundred pounds of waste materials generated, less than half a pound will go to a landfill, and the rest will be recycled. A noble goal - and one they hope to achieve by 2020.

But is it really “zero waste?” There is some waste still generated, though a very small amount. P&G is making great strides towards a green supply chain and setting a great example for the rest of us. But it raises the question: is it really possible to have zero waste? To not have any manufacturing materials left at the end? To have nothing to dispose of and no carbon footprint?

At the moment it seems there will always be some waste generated, even if the amount is negligible. But as time and technology move forwards and new materials and methods are developed, perhaps it will be possible to eliminate every bit of waste from your supply chain.

Enacting a Zero Waste Policy 

In the meantime, what can you do today to eliminate waste and work towards a green supply chain? The first step is awareness. What materials are you using in your company? This includes materials you’re using for manufacturing, as well as packing materials and anything else that might get thrown in the garbage at the end of the day.

That old cardboard box that some of your materials were shipped in—can it be recycled? Can it be taped up and used again? What about the packing peanuts that came in it? Are they recyclable? If not, perhaps look for companies that DO use recyclable packing materials.

Look at what you’re throwing out and why, and see if there’s a way to recycle it, reuse it, or simply not need it in the first place.

Also be aware of what you ship to your customers. What you send down the supply chain has an impact on THEIR sustainability. Do you waste boxes by shipping some of them half full? Improving your waste management habits will help to improve the entire supply chain.

The environment is an issue that grows more important every day. We need to take care of the planet we live on and make sure that what we send out into the world doesn’t contribute to its demise. That’s why we need to strive towards a green supply chain and eliminate as much waste as possible, both from our own companies and from those that we interact with. A true zero waste policy may not be feasible just yet, but that’s no reason not to try our very best.

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