Leading Sustainable Organizations
Is striving to get to zero waste, where your company (or even you as an individual) sends no trash to landfills — really, literally none — possible?
It’s difficult but it is, even for a mid-sized company, possible. Witness Sunny Delight Beverages Co., a $532 million Cincinatti-based manufacturer.
In its 2010 sustainability report (pdf) chief sustainability officer Ellen Iobst writes, “This year, SDBC achieved an outstanding accomplishment by reaching its zero waste to landfill goal at all manufacturing sites three years ahead of schedule.” Iobst continues:
Our dedicated employees at each plant site worked diligently to divert all generated waste away from landfills and into recycling waste streams. They sent their last load of waste to the landfill in April 2010 and they continue to create new waste recycling opportunities. Sunny Delight is among the first in its industry to accomplish this zero waste to landfill feat.
. . . This zero waste goal was achieved by maximizing recycling through waste audits, researching recycling facilities and setting up a recycling protocol at each facility. Great effort also was taken to reduce office supplies by implementing paperless procedures and by reusing a variety of storage containers on-site.
. . . Achieving and maintaining zero waste to landfills is not an easy accomplishment. Creating new waste streams is challenging. For example, the concrete scrap resulting from a plant’s construction project had no known reuse purpose. However, the site’s sustainability team worked to find a recycler who would take it. Diligence and creative thinking by our employees drove our outstanding zero waste result.
Waste Management World reported that “these goals were hit through a combination of measures. For example in a move towards a paperless workplace, vendors must now submit their invoices electronically. This has had the knock-on benefit of speeding the review and approval of documents, and reducing paper and storage costs. Expense reports are also only accepted electronically now.”
Waste Management also reported that in 2007, 36% of Sunny Delight’s waste was landfilled — 1,140 tons out of 3,166 tons — and that by 2009, that percentage had dropped to less that 10%. In 2010, it hit zero.
As well, the “initiatives have delivered an impressive $2.44 million saving in two years,” wrote Waste Management.