By Heather Nortz

PLASTICS Associate, Sustainability and Materials

Achieving zero net waste in a manufacturing facility is a lofty goal. At first glance, the mere idea seems insurmountable. And getting a third-party certification can be expensive and time consuming.

Not so, with PLASTICS’ Zero Net Waste Recognition Program (ZNW). While it is not a certification program, ZNW greatly enhances the public reputation of participant companies while laying important groundwork for certification should a company later decide to go that route.

The program offers three recognition levels to companies that have demonstrated leadership in landfill diversion, waste reduction, and most importantly, a commitment to ensuring valuable resources go to their highest and best use.

To help companies achieve their waste reduction and recycling goals, ZNW provides step-by-step guidance as well as practical strategies and tools that enable companies to continue such efforts and maintain their recognition status. ZNW has been proven to help companies reduce their waste to landfill by 90%, engage employees in environmental efforts, avoid landfill costs, and generate revenue through recycling.

The Zero Net Waste program guides participants through the following steps:

  1. Facility Walkthrough
    1. A visual surveying of your facility’s current waste and recycling collection systems to identify any gaps in collection and communication.
  2. Trash Can Waste Characterization
    1. In preparation for waste sortation, the participant assesses the contents of their waste bins to determine the different types of materials present and list them into categories.
  3. 24-hour Waste Sort/ Material Characterization
    1. The waste sort consists of collecting a 24-hour quantitative snapshot of your facility’s waste generation and manually sorting the waste into the categories identified in Step 2.
    2. This visual activity will show employees and management the breakdown of materials   sent to landfill each day, as well as highlight materials of high volume that can be targeted for reduction or diversion.
  4. Data Collection and Diversion Rate Calculation
    1. Waste diversion rate is measured by weight. Therefore, all waste collected in the initial 24-hour period will be weighed and compared to the total weight of recycled materials to set your baseline. These two data points will be entered into a formula to calculate annual diversion rates that are then used to set quantitative goals for improvement.  
  5. Setting Goals
    1. It is important to set goals for both reduction of unnecessary generation of potential waste materials as well as diversion from landfill of produced materials. These two goals work together to reduce your overall environmental footprint and save capital by reducing overall material use and producing less waste.
  6. Qualification and Verification Checklist Completion
    1. The Qualification Checklist aims to create a simple way for facilities to demonstrate that the foundation is in place for a site to begin measuring their success in Zero Net Waste.
    2. Once measurable progress has been documented, the Verification Checklist and supporting documentation can be submitted for recognition consideration.
  7. Ongoing Verification
    1. Recognized ZNW participants will be required to submit the necessary documentation annually to demonstrate ongoing waste diversion.

Once recognized as a Zero Net Waste participant, companies can utilize their Zero Net Waste badge and logo to broadcast their successes to their community, employees, and customers!