The Zero Waste Dream

Across the UK last week, homes and businesses took part in Zero Waste Week. The project is a grassroots campaign, raising awareness of the environmental impact of waste and empowering participants to reduce waste.

The idea is for millions of people around the world to reduce waste through reuse, recycling and repurposing material for a longer life.

But, in truth, the solutions to waste are very complex. They involve global industry, trade and profit. Indeed, the very basis of today’s economy requires fundamental change to combat waste.

What is Zero Waste, and what can be done to achieve it?

Zero Waste is in its aspirational sense a very simple goal; to reduce the amount of materials we use that aren’t recycled or composted to zero.

But of course, as soon as you examine the details, things become more complex. If an old plastic bottle is burned to make energy (called incineration), not recycled, does that still count as Zero Waste?

Or, if a plastic bottle that was manufactured very efficiently, using very little CO2 or energy isn’t recycled, is that worse for the planet than recycling one which used lots of energy in inefficient production? Remember, recycling itself takes energy, and has CO2 impacts too.

For these reasons, the simplicities of much Zero Waste campaigning, and those powerful calls to action don’t really stack up in the real world. Most of us want goods, like flatscreen TVs, whose components we can’t recycle.

Even more fundamentally, we all need hospitals, but the syringes must be individually packaged in sterile, expensive, hard to recycle packaging for health reasons. Who among us would consent to a reused syringe?

So the truth is, Zero Waste is a useful goal, but it can’t become reality for many years yet, if ever. What can be done is to consider the best ways for society and industry to improve sustainability. And that’s where the circular economy comes in.

What is the circular economy?

The Ellen MacArthur Foundation is leading the race to a circular economy. In the Foundation’s words, a circular economy is one that is restorative and regenerative by design, and which aims to keep products, components and materials at their highest utility and value at all times.

The circular economy is about designing things right to begin with, at global and industrial level, so that recycling is easy if or when products finish their useful life. When we get this right, Zero Waste has a shot at success.

With a circular economic model, the flatscreen TV we previously couldn’t recycle would be designed differently, so it could be easily and profitably recycled, or reused.

The circular economy is vital, because individuals like you or I can’t really change how a flatscreen TV is made. This is up to manufacturers. Globally, these need to be shown the potential and the possibilities of more circular industries.

Then, you and I just need to drop our TVs off to the Council for recycling, when hopefully, in the future, they are designed better for this purpose.

All of this is complicated. But essentially, for Zero Waste to work, the circular economy needs to become a reality. Then, big manufacturers could sell us products we would willingly recycle.

It all goes to prove that the biggest aspirational, environmental challenges, require buy in from industry, not just activists on the street. As ever, a combination of forces conspire for the greater good.

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Tasty Savings at Bread & Butter

Bread and Butter is a first Gourmet Food Market located in Drumcondra, Dublin 9 and is owned by the same small team behind The Lovely Food Company restaurants. They have teamed up with some of the best independent Irish food producers as well as some well-known brands to bring the very best in food produce to Drumcondra.

The City Bin Co. were awarded the waste collection contract from Paul Breen (company director) in September 2015. Paul is quite passionate about the environment and wanted to work with a company that would mind his spend on waste while diverting waste from landfill.

We spoke with Paul and his team and recognised that all of his waste was indeed going into one general waste bin. We examined this waste and found that all tea bags, coffee grinds, blue roll and vegetable preparation could actually go into an organic bin. This left all of the packaging dry and by default able to be recycled. We provided colour coded bins for organic and recycling waste and today the 2 x 1100 litre bins a week of general waste that they had is now either in an organic bin or recycling bin.

If you would like more information on the Zero Project, please contact John Farrell, The City Bin Co.

Apple’s Environmental Progress in China

First, it announced that Lens Technology, which produces glass for Apple, has committed to using 100% renewable energy for all of its Apple operations by the end of 2018. Lens, which is the first Apple supplier to commit to using fully-renewable energy sources, has entered into agreements with local wind energy suppliers to fulfil its commitment.

Lisa Jackson, Apple’s vice president of Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives, said:

We want to show the world that you can manufacture responsibly and we’re working alongside our suppliers to help them lower their environmental impact in China. We congratulate Lens for their bold step, and hope by sharing the lessons we’ve learned in our transition to renewable energy, our suppliers will continue to access clean power projects, moving China closer to its green manufacturing goals.

Second, Apple announced that all of its fourteen final assembly sites in China comply with UL’s Zero Waste to Landfill standard, which “certifies all of their manufacturing waste is reused, recycled, composted, or, when necessary, converted into energy.” Foxconn met the Zero Waste to Landfill standard earlier this year at two of its assembly sites. Twelve other sites were added more recently.


Novum puts the freeze on their waste spend

Novum based in Clonshaugh Industrial Estate Dublin 17 was set up in 1955 to make washing machines for the European market. Since then the company has grown from strength to strength and in 2012 Novum patented Frost Free technology was developed and introduced to the market. This revolutionary technology means no ice build up inside the cabinet, quicker defrosting, better product temperatures, and more money in your pocket.

The company was approached last year by The City Bin Co. with a view to looking at its waste and diverting all of this from landfill. Under the Instruction of Paul Murphy General Manager and Gavin King Environmental Officer we agreed a way forward. The concept was simple. They wanted to eliminate the general waste stream from the process while training their team in best business practice regarding recycling.

The process in achieving zero waste to landfill was to swop the compactor on site for out FEL skips as we recognised all of this so-called waste was actually recyclable. This compactor was going straight to landfill, however we were sorting all waste that was put into our FEL.

We also introduced a weekly collection of baled cardboard and plastic. All of this waste was being compacted and sent to landfill. Inside the premises we introduced 1100 litre mixed dry recycling bins for all of the individual workstations and again all of this waste is now being recycled. The goal of zero waste to landfill was realised this year and now the company that had been sending tonnes of waste per month to landfill is diverting this product into recycling, in the form of baled cardboard and plastic, FEL large recycling (boxes and plastics) and 1100 litre mixed recycling bins for smaller recycling items.

Now, all the general waste that have been diverted from landfill have made a saving back onto the company’s bottom line.

If you would like more information on the Zero Project, please contact John Farrell, The City Bin Co.