SPI Zero Net Waste Program

The SPI Zero Net Waste (ZNW) program recognizes the companies that have taken steps to drive toward zero net waste in manufacturing. These companies have demonstrated leadership in landfill diversion, waste reduction, and most importantly a commitment to ensuring valuable resources go to the highest and best use. The ZNW program offers members the tools and resources that will help them successfully achieve their recycling and waste reduction goals. As a Zero Net Waste program participant, they can broadcast those successes to their community, employees, and customers.



Purpose of the Zero Net Waste (ZNW) Program

In 2013, SPI revised its organizational mission statement to include the pursuit of zero waste for the industry. To further support that mission, SPI has developed this recognition program for SPI members working toward zero net waste in manufacturing. This program has been developed under the leadership of the Emerging Trends Subcommittee of the Recycling Committee and a cross-­council, cross­-committee workgroup of members that represent all segments of the plastics industry supply chain. 

This program is designed to provide members the tools and resources to achieve maximum diversion of valuable resources away from the landfill, and properly channel materials where these materials can be put to their highest and best use. SPI and its members resolutely believe that material is only truly “waste” when the embodied value of the material is not fully realized by the generator. The materials that are generated as a byproduct of manufacturing can be most often used as resources for manufacturing in similar, and sometimes different, applications when channeled into the proper management system.  If an acceptable recycling opportunity cannot be identified, byproducts of manufacturing and commercial activity can often be converted into energy or chemical products when mechanical recycling is not possible. This program supports the traditional reduce, reuse, recycle, recover waste hierarchy, with a preference toward recovery processes that create secondary, tradeable commodities over incineration whenever possible.

Through this program, SPI hopes to drive the industry toward waste reduction and maximum recovery of resources, consistent with the sustainable materials management model being embraced by leaders and regulatory agencies around the globe. In addition to the environmental benefit of these activities, companies that actively manage their material byproducts often enjoy a financial return, get the benefit of green marketing opportunities, and foster customer loyalty.

While this program is a voluntary recognition program, qualification and ongoing verification is required for participation.  This is not a third-party certification program. A number of certification programs currently exist in the marketplace. If successfully implemented, this program will help prepare companies for third party certification.  Because certification programs can vary, it is advised that if certification is the end goal, participants of this program should understand which certification they would like to achieve so they can capture the proper metrics throughout their zero net waste journey.


Goals of the Program

There are three primary goals of the SPI Zero Net Waste program, including:

  • Educate. We want to educate the industry about the value of the byproducts being created through manufacturing and conducting business.
  • Enable. The program offers a host of guidance, tools and resources that help participating companies achieve their diversion goals. 
  • Recognize. By offering a mechanism for public recognition for their participation, we hope to further incentivize companies to adopt these best practices and further strive to achieve maximum waste reduction and diversion. 

The SPI ZNW program recognizes the achievements of the plastics industry in making strides to reduce the environmental impact of their businesses. This means ensuring the return of all excess material resources to the cycle for re-manufacturing, or maximizing energy recovery value when mechanical recycling is not viable. In general, materials that are generated in the course of manufacturing and normal business, are truly resources that can be put to a much higher and better use than landfilling. A material only becomes “waste” when the generator cannot identify a beneficial use for that material.

This program challenges all parties in the plastics supply chain to seek out the recovery opportunities that will enable maximum diversion of materials from the landfill and continue to put valuable resources to use.  Recognizing that not all recycling solutions exist equally around the U.S., participants of this program will find that it is not a prescriptive program.  No two participant’s programs will look the same.  The modules and resources contained in this program will provide participants with the strategies and information to seek out the best end­-of-­life management options for each facility.


The Meaning of "Zero Net Waste"

The definition of an absolute “Zero Net Waste” system is a management system in which generation of materials that are not salable as finished, commercial products is minimized and in which 100% of such materials generated in the manufacturing process or course of business goes to a beneficial reuse or recycling disposition. Said another way, in a pure Zero Net Waste scenario, none of the generated waste is disposed to formal or informal landfill, to incineration without energy recovery, or to deep well injection.     

More generally, the concept of Zero Net Waste encompasses the idea that all byproducts of manufacturing and business can either be reduced, or managed at end of life in a way that creates a benefit that is higher than landfilling or incineration without energy recovery.  SPI and its members believe the term “Zero Net Waste” is best reflective of the values and goals of the industry to eliminate as much material heading to the landfill as possible.

By recognizing “net zero”, we affirm: ­

  • There are inherent by products of manufacturing that cannot be entirely eliminated, but still have value and can be put to a beneficial secondary use; ­ 
  • There are a variety of beneficial treatment methods for materials at end of life, including mechanical recycling, chemical recycling, conversion to fuel and chemical products, and incineration with energy recovery that meets regulatory emissions standards. ­
  • We support a life cycle assessment approach to end-­of-­life decision ­making that places preference on the treatment method that yields the highest environmental net benefit that exceeds the resource intensity (i.e., water, energy, etc.) of the treatment process.

Use of the term “Zero Net Waste” also recognizes that absolute zero net waste is, in most cases, generally not attainable. But near zero net waste is.  If implemented correctly, it is possible for companies to achieve 80% - ­98% recovery.  This program also recognizes that higher levels of success are not achieved immediately, and attaining zero net waste goals takes time.  This program aims to acknowledge the efforts of those companies that are both earnestly on the path to zero net waste, as well as those who have reached that achievement.


Scope of the Program

This program addresses all non­hazardous materials generated by a facility and/or office. Hazardous waste is not included in the scope of this program as there are superseding laws that govern the handling and treatment of hazardous waste. The materials included in the scope of this program include all solid or liquid waste materials, other than water effluent, that have not been defined by pertinent government regulations as hazardous waste.  

Such categories of materials include (but are not limited to):

  • Pre­-consumer (aka, post­-industrial) scrap and other non­hazardous manufacturing byproducts
  • Office and cafeteria waste (including organics and packaging)
  • Yard debris from grounds maintenance
  • Shipping and packaging materials (post­-commercial)
  • Electronic scrap and manufacturing equipment
  • Construction and demolition (C&D) materials
  • Batteries
  • Mercury lights and ballasts
  • Other non­traditional, non­hazardous wastes that may be generated through special, on-site activities

While hazardous waste is not included in the scope of the program, it should not be assumed that nothing can be done to either reduce the generation of hazardous materials or in some cases direct classified hazardous materials to a beneficial reuse. In many cases, work can be done to eliminate, reduce or reuse hazardous streams of material. Program participants are encouraged to assess hazardous wastes and see where reduction and recovery opportunities might exist.


Program Qualification and Verification

This is not a program that requires independent, third­-party verification for participation.  However, there are requirements around demonstration of the activities needed to achieve and sustain success in the pursuit of zero net waste.  Qualification and verification occur in two stages.  Once a company commits to pursuing zero waste as an office, manufacturing facility or at a corporate-wide level, they must fill out and submit the Qualification document.  Completion of this step indicates the company has implemented the critical pieces to begin their journey to zero net waste.  Once a company has documented successes in diversion, they may submit the verification checklist and supporting documentation that demonstrates this success.  After verification, a company is permitted to use the ZNW logo on marketing pieces as appropriate to the level of recognition that has been achieved (i.e., a company that achieves recognition for a facility, may indicate the particular facilities that have achieved recognition).

At the beginning of each calendar year, companies will be reminded to submit the necessary information to demonstrate ongoing, annual verification.  Verification seeks to demonstrate the zero net waste efforts remain active and diversion goals are being met, or corrective measures are being taken if goals are not being met.    All information submitted to SPI for qualification and verification will be maintained as confidential.

Click here to view the ZNW verification checklist:




SPI’s assumption is that companies will be honest and forthcoming with the information they are providing to meet qualification and verification requirements. The underlying goal is to incentivize companies to move to adopt best practices without being onerous. However, it is important that the program maintain credibility, which is why participating companies will be asked to share information and documentation about their zero net waste program. While there is no independent, third­-party audit of your facility or company to qualify, companies should recognize that by taking advantage of the use of the logo to denote their activities in the pursuit of zero net waste, they open themselves up to customer inquiries about their diversion activities. All companies should be prepared to answer these questions, and facilities that put the principles of the modules into practice will have no problem demonstrating their efforts. If a facility is using the logo under false pretenses, it does open a company up to accusations of greenwashing, which can be damaging to a brand and result in the revoking of use of the ZNW logos.

Participation in the Zero Net Waste program is currently limited to SPI members. There are three tiers of recognition available:


znw facility logo - small


znw office logo - small


znw corporate logo - small

If a company wishes to pursue the company­wide recognition, they must be implementing the zero net waste practices at all offices and facilities owned by the company.  The second level of recognition is for individual manufacturing sites, or facility recognition.  The third level of recognition is for companies that would like to get their headquarters (non-manufacturing) or other office sites certified.

For every company that has a facility or office qualified for the Zero Net Waste program, the company will be listed on the Zero Net Waste webpage. Additionally, each company facility or office that qualifies will be listed on the website.  Once a company has demonstrated qualification for the program, they will be given access to modules, tools, resources, logos for use on their webpage, marketing materials, collateral and other corporate materials. All information about the program, including modules, tools and resources can be found here:




Helpful Links

SPI Zero Net Waste - Glossary

SPI Recycling Committee

Re|focus Recycling Summit and Expo

RecyclePlastics365: An online marketplace for buyers, sellers and processors of scrap plastic material and equipment.

Recording of WEBINAR: Start Your Company’s Journey to Zero Net Waste - This recording is available to webinar attendees only.

PowerPoint: Start Your Company’s Journey to Zero Net Waste


ZNW Certified

The Minco Group
All Service Plastic Molding (ASPM) - 900 Falls Creek Drive, Vandalia, Ohio  45377 



SPI would like to thank the following people for their assistance in the creation of this program:

Emerging Trends Subcommittee Chair, of the Recycling Committee:

Kathy Xuan, PARC Corporation

Workgroup Members:

Charlie Rau, Exxon Mobil Corp
Kimberly Williamson, Techmer PM
Matthew Caruso, Techmer PM
Mark Daniels, Novalex
Ryan Spies, Eastman Chemical
Kisa Adkins, Rubbermaid
Angely Webb, Fukutomi
Nick Sotos, iD Additives
Robert Flores, Berry Plastics
Heidi Freeman, Mitsubishi Polyester Film
Steve Brun, Minco Group
Andy Brewer, Minco Group
Greg Leighton, C&G Plastics
Vince Herran, Sealed Air


Contact Us

ZNW Program Manager:
Kim Holmes, Senior Director Recycling and Diversion, SPI
kholmes@plasticsindustry.org  |  (202) 270-0058

Press Inquiries:
Jacob Barron, Manager, Communications, SPI
press@plasticsindustry.org  |  (202) 974-5249

SPI Membership:
Alan Carter, Director, Member Servies, SPI
spimembership@plasticsindustry.org  |  (202) 974-5284

Page Tools




Additional ZNW Tools




ZNW Workbook:





Helpful Links