For many businesses, the trash bill is merely a line item in the annual budget. For employees, part of being a responsible worker is keeping work spaces clean and waste free by throwing trash away. But, is there really such a thing as "away" when we live on a circular planet and downstream from each other?

That's where Zero Waste comes in to play. Zero Waste (...or darn close) is an operational concept that is globally defined as "a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient, and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles where discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use".

Zero Waste requires a deeper look at material streams, purchasing practices, and culture change, which guides a conscientious approach to more efficient operations to reduce global impacts. By challenging governments, residents, and businesses to divert at least 90% of materials from disposal through reuse, up-cycling, recycling, composting, and others methods, Zero Waste has become a preferred standard.

ZERO WASTE IS A CYCLICAL, RATHER THAN LINEAR STRUCTURE:

         Credit: Eco-Cycle, Inc.

        

Credit: Eco-Cycle, Inc.

 

  • Products are designed for recycling by upstream innovators and engineers,
  • Products are manufactured without toxins like lead and mercury,
  • Residents, businesses, and local governments are educated on sustainability and empowered through green purchasing practices,
  • Valuable materials are no longer discarded in landfills or incinerators, but recovered for reuse and remanufacturing, 
  • Extended Producer Responsibility (EPR) programs ensure manufacturers take back obsolete products for responsible recycling, and
  • Diverse job streams are created for a more robust economy.

 

A Recent Study DETAILED THE amount and COMPOSITION OF Austin'S DISCARDS AND ITS POTENTIAL TO GET TO ZERO WASTE.

Credit: City of Austin

Credit: City of Austin

Findings:

  • 44 percent of what is found in the trash stream could have been recycled:
  • An estimated 58,000 tons of recyclables are going to the landfill each year. That is enough to fill the UT tower 29 times
  • The value of recyclables thrown in the trash last year totaled $4.7 million
  • Recycling creates more jobs than discarding materials in the landfill
  • Austin’s recycling and reuse industries generated $720 million in economic activity in 2014 and supported over 2,600 jobs