How to Achieve Zero Waste to Landfill Status

Over three billion tonnes – That’s the predicted annual waste generation output over the next 30 years — up from 2.01 billion tonnes in 2016 — according to a 2018 report by the World Bank. The report goes on to state that, while high-income countries only account for 16% of the world’s population, they generate more than a third (34%) of the planet’s total waste. Learning how to achieve zero waste management is essential for our environment.

Despite efforts to fund and expand the adoption of the “circular economy” where resources are kept in use for as long as possible (as opposed to the traditional linear economy where goods are built and then disposed of), both households and businesses in the UK continue to send significant volumes of waste to landfill each year.

Why Are Landfills a Problem?

For decades, landfills have been the de-facto method of waste management around the world. In recent years, we’ve come to learn more about their disastrous impact on the environment.

For starters, landfills produce landfill gas (LFG), a byproduct of decomposing organic material. LFG consists of 50% methane and 50% carbon dioxide — both primary contributors to greenhouse-gas emissions. Landfills also leak waste chemicals that can seep underground and contaminate groundwater. According to an Environment Agency (EA) report, “Even the best-engineered landfill sites will leak to some extent.

As the most rudimentary form of waste management, landfills are quickly becoming obsolete, both for their ecological impact and their lack of sustainability — the UK is running out of landfill space, after all. All this has prompted the government to take action.

According to government data, 7.2 million tonnes of biodegradable municipal waste (BMW) — food waste, green waste, cardboard, paper and more — were sent to the landfill in 2018. While that figure is well below the target set by the Landfill Directive of 1999, all that waste still generates massive volumes of greenhouse gases each year.

In the interim, multiple organisations in the UK, ranging from small businesses to waste contractors, have launched their “zero waste to landfill” initiatives to improve their waste-management policies and move towards circular waste management.

What Is Zero Waste to Landfill?

As the phrase suggests, zero waste to landfill is a waste-management concept that describes the diversion of waste away from landfills. Zero waste to landfill methods build on the practices outlined under the Waste Hierarchy — a methodology that focuses on rethinking our relationship with waste, illustrated as a five-tier inverted pyramid:

Simply put, the waste hierarchy represents a system for prioritising how businesses deal with waste, placing the most value on waste reduction and the least on waste disposal.

By analysing each waste stream, companies can come up with end-of-life solutions for their products and prevent them from ending up in landfill. 

Bottom line? Achieving zero waste to landfill status improves your environmental performance and reduces your waste-management costs.

Zero Waste to Landfill vs. Zero Waste

While there is some confusion over zero waste to landfill and zero waste, they are not the same thing, and companies that conflate these terms may receive criticism for greenwashing their brands.

Zero waste is a philosophy and movement that overlaps with the principles of the Waste Hierarchy. Companies like Dell and Unilever have launched zero-waste initiatives as part of their long-term goals of eliminating waste from their business processes. Whirlpool is demonstrating its commitment to the environment through several projects, including #PlasticLess and a zero waste to landfill pledge by 2022. Axil has worked with Whirlpool and Cummins to achieve and maintain Zero to Landfill. However, for the majority of businesses, achieving zero waste can be a cost-prohibitive goal, as it may require a complete overhaul of product designs, supply-chain management processes, business models and infrastructure.

On the other hand, zero waste to landfill is a specific and actionable goal that almost any business can achieve. Rather than eliminating waste from every stage of the value chain, zero waste to landfill practices focus on diverting existing waste away from landfills, whether it’s by reducing, reusing, composting or sending waste to energy-recovery facilities.

How to Achieve Zero Waste Status — Our Top-5 Tips for Zero Waste to Landfill!

Working with a reliable waste-management partner represents the fastest way for companies to achieve zero waste to landfill status. If you’re wondering how to achieve zero waste, a good waste management company will walk you through these steps.

A waste review is an assessment of your waste streams that seeks to discover the types of waste your organisation produces, such as paper, plastic, food, and hazardous materials, as well as the quantities of each throughout a given timeframe — usually a week.

Waste-management specialists use the results of your comprehensive waste review to measure and compare how much waste is thrown out against the amount that’s recycled. A review is also a necessary step for companies looking to go green to seek BREEAM.

  • Introduce Actionable Waste-Reduction Methods

Waste management specialists can help you roll out waste-reduction initiatives that are customised to your organisation’s waste streams. This allows you to discover ways to reuse waste materials where possible and effectively recycle and segregate waste.

For instance, waste specialists can help businesses in the food and beverage (F&B) sector to compost their food waste or find ways to divert unconsumed food that’s still safe to eat.

  • Create a System for Segregating Business Waste and Dry Mixed Recycling (DMR)

Waste-management companies typically provide general waste services that collect waste that can’t be readily recycled — also known as residual or trade waste. These items include contaminated packaging, confectionary wrappers, and low-grade plastics, among others. These companies can also teach businesses how to properly segregate their waste for collection as dry mixed recycling (DMR).

  • Involve Staff in Waste-Management Programmes

Earning employee buy-in is how companies can turn circular waste management into a core element of their culture. Involving your staff also turns them into recycling champions, allowing them to bring waste-management practices into their own lives. Not only is this a net positive for your business, but it’s also a great way to generate goodwill and demonstrate corporate social responsibility.

  • Divert Residual Waste to EFW Facilities

Non-recyclable waste can be diverted from landfill and sent to an energy for waste (EFW) facility — a specialist plant that converts waste into electricity. This process involves carefully separating recyclable materials and burning the residual waste to generate steam that’s converted into electricity. Smoke resulting from the burning process is filtered to prevent contaminants from being released into the air, while the leftover ash is recycled into aggregate.

Work with a Trusted Provider to Achieve Zero Waste to Landfill Status

It’s worth noting that achieving zero waste to landfill isn’t as straightforward as you would think. For instance, while some recycling companies will take your waste, some of it can be sent abroad and used as RDF (refuse-derived fuel). The problem is that different countries will have different standards for incinerating waste, which can lead to residual ash being dumped in landfills. 

Companies owe it to themselves to check what happens to their waste and to ensure it’s being diverted from landfill. Whether you’re a small to medium-sized enterprise (SME) or a large firm, it’s best to work with a total waste-management company that understands the zero waste to landfill process.

At Axil, we provide all types of companies with our reliable total waste-management services, which cover waste-handling training for your teams, source segregation of recyclables, DMR collection and much more. As a waste-management firm recognised by the National Recycling Awards 2020, we take pride in our ability to help companies realise their zero waste to landfill goals. 

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Our waste management experts will understand your waste streams and the challenges you face— and develop a service proposal tailored to accommodate your needs.

We will explain how our innovative solutions can re-engineer your waste to reduce your costs and increase your recycling.