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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

ask/A.S.K. What is a Zero Waste Factory?

From the desk of our Contributing Editor on Agriculture, Dr. Stephanie Georgieff.

One of the best definitions of “Zero Waste” is the recycling of all materials into
nature or the marketplace in a manner that protects human health and the
environment. The EPA defines “Zero Waste” as “minimizing waste and resource
consumption in order to conserve energy, mitigate climate change, reduce water
usage, prevent toxics creation and minimize ecosystem destruction.” 

I like to think of zero waste as something nature simply does within all living systems. There are a few buzzwords associated with Zero Waste: Eliminate, Minimize and Substitute.
Many large companies, particularly in Europe, are becoming aware that landfills for
garbage are quickly filling up to capacity. In order to deal with this reality, as well as
stem the rising costs of disposing of toxics and other substances, numerous large
industries are re-evaluating their practices with “Zero Waste” in mind. 

When a company wants to create a climate of “Zero Waste” they work on all aspects of their business; energy usage, toxic creation and disposal, green house gas emissions, and
usage of recycled products. There are a few companies that have actually met this
goal. One of the more famous “Zero Waste” factories in the US is the Subaru factory
in Lafayette, Indiana, where the claim is “Raw Materials go in, Subarus and nothing
else come out of a zero landfill factory.” They reuse things such as brass lug nuts
which used to be thrown away, recycle paint and plastic sludge into other useful
products, and reuse solvents. 

Some other examples of Corporate “Zero Waste” are Albertsons, which has diverted 95% of all its waste products from landfills or incinerators and a UK Nestle Kit Kat Factory with a 2015 “Zero Waste” goal which has been already been 70% achieved. Several nations, Scotland and Brazil to name a few, have ambitious “Zero Waste” goals, where the US EPA is consulting to help design and implement policies to make their goals a reality. Critics say it is impossible to achieve or too expensive, but as landfills continue to be closed and
human population rises, available land for trash is forcing many industries to
rethink their disposal practices with impressive results.

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