Ok, so waste is the bin out the back yeah? We fill it, they take it away. Somewhere else ...
That was our business philosophy in the second half of last century. Of course, from an environmental viewpoint we've known it wasn't good for ages. Everything that goes to landfill ends up in the air, water or soil. It doesn't go away. There is no away. A few years back we discovered the Pacific Garbage Patch, a ten metre deep heap of plastic the size of a continent in the pacific ocean. That's bad news for pacific gulls (don't click if you're squeemish). A polystyrene cup takes 500 years to breakdown, in which time 17 generations of our family have passed. That's a fair old legacy for a thing that keeps a drink warm for two minutes!
The bin out the back might be our physical link with waste, but the problem runs a lot deeper than that. It is estimated that 70 bins have already gone to landfill to mine and make the waste in our bin. If all the household bins in Bendigo were full, a weeks worth of garbage would pile 6m high on the Queen Elizabeth Oval. Multiply that by 70 and it would be very tricky to play football.
From a business point of view we pay for the stuff to be made, then we pay to throw it away. We pay twice! The business case for change is very good. Dupont buildings division has reduced waste to landfill by 100% in three years. A reduction of 81 million tonnes. And the most surprising part? The project is cost positive: they actually make money providing resources to others. The Dupont Zero Waste target is shared by many other businesses.
The journey to zero waste has five parts:
1. Understand what you are sending to landfill. Look in the bin. Open up some bags and get dirty (or click here for a Vic Government waste assessment fact sheet). You will be surprised at what you find. In many places at least a third of the waste is just in the wrong bin.
2. Understand your waste system from workstation to the skip. Who is in charge? Who moves the waste around? Who collects it from you? What are you paying? Is your system consistent from workstation to skip? Do your employees use it properly? What can be recycled?
3. Get behind the march towards zero waste and put a clear, effective system in place to reduce and divert waste from landfill. Take away landfill bins where possible, improve recycling systems, improve your system out the back and change purchasing patterns.
4. Clearly communicate the system and the goal with staff, suppliers and customers. Run a waste reduction campaign for the first few months after implementing the new system.
5. Keep your eyes on the ball - change takes time and lapses happen.
One sentence: If you aren't for zero waste, then how much are you for?