Want to Be a Zero Landfill Company? Here Are Powerful Steps You Can Take

We’re going to talk trash for a minute here. Consider these stats gathered by the EPA in 2018:

  • Each year, America sends 292.4 million tons of municipal solid waste to landfills. To put that in perspective, that’s nearly five pounds per person per day. A family of  four is generating about 140 pounds per week!
  • Of the 292.4 million tons waste, a mere 69 million tons are recycled, and 25 million tons are composted. That’s about one-third of everything collected.
  • Some 27 million tons of plastic is landfilled. That’s 18.5% of the total.
  • The recycling rate for PET bottles and jars is 29.1%. Basically, three in five PET bottles and jars are either landfilled or tossed along a road or in a body of water.

Trash in America—and in countries around the world—is a problem in need of a solution.

The good news is that a growing number of us would like to achieve Zero Landfill status by diverting as much solid waste as we can from landfills by recycling, reusing or repurposing items, and other means. While it sounds crazy impossible to achieve, we’re going to share three examples we  found on the web of global companies that have tackled this task and won. It’s impressive. Here goes:

  • Subaru is known for making sporty, practical vehicles at its mega manufacturing campus in Lafayette, Indiana, and at four plants in Japan. The one thing they’re not doing is trashing the environment. Since 2005, Subaru has sent no waste to landfills. Instead, they carefully track waste production and either recycle or repurpose everything they generate.
  • Unilever, whose best-known brands include Axe, Dove, TRESemmé, Lipton, and Wishbone, achieved zero waste to landfill status in 2016. What’s impressive is this was accomplished across 242 factories in 67 countries. Their efforts have saved the company $225 million.
  • Sierra Nevada makes a great beer but they’re also very good at avoiding landfills. Since 2013, Sierra Nevada has been diverting 99.8% of its solid waste from landfill. They’ve also made zero waste part of their company culture. Employees are given reusable bags, water bottles, and containers to help them become part of the solution by reducing personal waste.

Feeling inspired? What we’re going to share next will further fuel to your zero-landfill fire. Evergreen is leading the way in helping more companies reduce their reliance on landfills.

First, we know the recycling business inside and out. And with four locations across North America—Clyde, Ohio; Albany, New York, Riverside, California; and Amherst, Nova Scotia (Canada)—we’re pretty serious about it. We partner with cities, aggregators, and companies to collect recyclable materials.

Our primary focus is capturing as many PET bottles, jars, and preforms as possible for recycling into food-grade rPET pellets for use in new bottles, jars and other products. Believe it or not, we collect more than 11.6 billion bottles a year! Everything else we collect such as aluminum cans, corrugate, wood pallets, and the like are sold to others that recycle these and other materials.

Rather than wait for recyclables to come to Evergreen, in 2020 we launched a Sustainability Program with sister company Greenbridge, one of the largest suppliers of polyester and polypropylene strap and cord in North America, Europe and Mexico. The program is unique in that we work directly with Greenbridge customers to put them on the path of zero landfill or, at a minimum, a measurable reduction. Because we provide Sustainability Program participants with real data on a  monthly basis on the types and amounts of material diverted and ultimately recycled along with disposal costs savings, the program supports those companies with Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance (ESG) goals.

It’s important to point out that our solutions satisfy customers’ sustainability requirements without sacrificing business objectives. We consider it a “triple green” solution: positive environmental impact, positive bottom-line impact and positive social impact.

Each sustainability solution is unique to the customer and to do this, it starts with an in-person sustainability audit of the customer’s location or locations. Representatives of Evergreen and Greenbridge tour the operation to identify current recycling efforts, pinpoint processes related to waste generation, and the types and amounts of recyclable materials that can be diverted from landfill. We also capture the company’s annual sustainability goals and if they currently participating in any recycling programs.

From this information, Evergreen provides a detailed report to the customer on our findings, opportunities and an implementation strategy. This can include rebates for recyclable PET and PP plastic, introductions to local recycling resources for corrugated, aluminum cans, wood pallets, scrap metal, and other material. We will also help establish onsite employee recycling programs to engage employees in recycling beverage bottles and cans and other recyclables.

Although Evergreen’s Sustainability Program is in its first year, we’ve already secured major customers that have  implemented Evergreen sustainability strategies. We’re in active discussions with a number of other companies that want assistance in reducing their reliance on landfills, closing the loop on recyclable materials, and making a positive impact on the environment, their company, customers and communities.

Adopting more sustainable business practices is important to all of us. To learn more about Evergreen’s Sustainability Solutions and if your company is eligible to participate, visit our website or contact our sustainability coordinator Jonathan Steketee.

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