How to go zero waste

May 23, 2018

Recycle Can

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that the U.S. generates more than 250 million tons of municipal solid waste each year. Much of this waste ends up polluting our land, water, and air, so many organizations, cities, and even countries, are trying to reduce the amount of waste they produce to zero. Achieving zero waste isn’t easy, but the benefits are numerous, including cost savings, energy savings, lower pollution, and more. Plus, there is now a TRUE (Total Resource Use and Efficiency) Zero Waste certification system, so facilities can also celebrate and promote their commitment to sustainability.


In order to achieve and maintain a TRUE Zero Waste certification, a facility must meet seven minimum requirements and attain at least 31 out of 81 total points on the program’s scorecard. According to TRUE’s website, a facility must:


  • Have a zero waste policy in place
  • Submit a case study of zero waste initiatives to be published on TRUE’s website
  • Must not exceed a 10% contamination level for any materials that leave the site
  • Submit 12 months of waste diversion data to GBCI annually to keep the certification current
  • Have data documenting a base year of waste diversion and measurements since the base year that adjust for changes in size, type and nature of business
  • Meet all federal, state/provincial, and local solid waste and recycling laws and regulations. Comply with all air, water and land discharge permits required for collection, handling or processing of materials
  • Achieve “an average of 90 percent or greater overall diversion from landfill, incineration (waste-to-energy) and the environment for solid, non-hazardous wastes for the most recent 12 months. Diverted materials are reduced, reused, recycled, composted and/or recovered for productive use in nature or the economy.”


How to achieve zero waste

It’s important to assemble “Green Teams” made up of at least one employee from each department. These teams should work toward boosting enthusiasm for the program and to identify areas of opportunity. Educate employees to encourage their involvement, for you’ll need their efforts to make your program a success. Your Green Team should:


  • Assess your waste streams and levels to better understand the amount and composition of your waste, as well as your disposal methods.
  • Map out all waste streams to identify where receptacles are needed for each type of waste, and make sure to properly label these receptacles so employees put the proper waste in each receptacle. Pictures are helpful.
  • Weigh outbound waste to track improvement over time.
  • Keep employees up-to-date with your results so they remain engaged in the effort.


Encourage employees to continue these strategies at home.


Review processes in place in order to identify new ways to reuse and further reduce waste. Krista Jaeger, Manager of Sustainability at Cintas Corporation, suggests reusing “shipping materials like filler paper and cardboard boxes from incoming shipments for outgoing     shipments whenever possible. If your facility generates fabric scraps, it may be able to partner with an organization that collects these to be recycled into new product or donate them to a local charity, such as animal shelters, which repurpose them for bedding and cleaning cloths.”


Going zero waste will ultimately make your facility more sustainable and more efficient, and will provide your employees with greater satisfaction. TRUE offers many resources to help you achieve your goals.


For more information on improving your facility’s sustainability, contact Vanguard Resources.