What do 10 companies that are known for their ingenuity, efficiency, economic responsibility, and ethical vision all have in common?
The answer might not be what you’d expect, but it is one that is gaining recognition as our societies focus more on sustainability and their own global responsibilities.
The answer is zero waste.
What is Zero Waste?
Zero waste is a philosophy that utilizes the implementation of strategy, resources, and innovative tools in order to completely eliminate waste rather than manage it via landfill. Zero waste companies are not only beneficial for the environment but also the economy and many communities around the world.
By developing programs and policies for reducing, reusing and recycling materials that would otherwise be destined for less desirable outcomes, these companies are leading the zero waste charge.
10 Zero Waste Companies
Subaru reuses or recycles everything. In fact, the single Subaru manufacturing plant in the U.S. and two of the company’s manufacturing plants in Japan haven’t sent waste to local landfills in over 12 years.
While Subaru’s commitment to zero waste is great for the environment and the Subaru community, it has also had a hefty impact on their bottom line. Once their U.S. plant became zero waste, Subaru saw a savings of $1 – $2 million annually.
Subaru Zero Waste Facts:
- The push to reuse everything came from Subaru’s employees.
- Roughly 96% of Subaru vehicle components can be recycled or reused.
- Subaru is not only committed to becoming a 100% zero waste company themselves, they also share their successful Zero waste methodology with other companies and organizations around the world, including the National Park Service.
In 2013, Toyota became a founding member of the U.S. Zero Waste Building Council. By 2015 Toyota of North America reduced, reused, and recycled its way to a 96% decrease in total non-regulated waste production.
Toyota Zero Waste Facts:
- The 96% waste reduction mentioned above equates to roughly 900 million pounds that would have been sent to landfill.
- Toyota currently has 27 North American facilities that meet the U.S. Zero Waste Building Council definition of a zero waste site (10 of the 27 facilities are manufacturing plants).
- Toyota Motor North America has been recognized by the EPA as their 2015 Very Large Business, WasteWise Partner of the Year.
3. General Motors (GM)
General Motors (GM) announced that, as of 2016, it has 152 zero waste facilities. They credited this success to their employees, recycling, reusing and converting waste to energy, and developing products from recycled materials.
Just as Subaru was able to see a boost in their bottom line, GM has generated a reported $1 billion by recycling 2 million metric tons of byproduct.
GM Zero Waste Facts:
- The $1 billion that GM saves is reinvested into the development of fuel-efficient GM vehicles and new GM technologies.
- GM uses recycled water bottles from Flint, MI to make their engine cover insulation and some of their facilities air filters.
- GM has converted Chevrolet Bolt battery covers into wildlife habitat nest boxes. The ducks are grateful for those!
Google is a company of big ideas so it makes sense that they would commit to the big idea of becoming zero waste. To achieve a zero company waste status, Google is focusing on their data centers first. Out of their 14 data centers, 6 were zero waste-to-landfill last year. In addition to their focus on the data centers, Google recycles and reuses 86% of their non-data center waste globally.
Google Zero Waste Facts:
- Google’s ‘moonshot’ campaign was instituted to make aggressive efforts to reuse otherwise wasted data servers.
- Google employees find ways to repurpose and recycle their old office furniture.
- Being as large as they are, Google has introduced a slew of composting programs to reduce any organic waste.
Microsoft is a huge company that has more than 44,000 employees working in 125 buildings placed over 500 acres in Redmond, WA. Because of their actual size, Microsoft’s waste reduction is not only environmentally impactful but also economically necessary.
In an effort to reduce their carbon footprint, Microsoft has implemented programs to keep 90% of their waste out of landfills.
Microsoft Zero Waste Facts:
- Of all the technology-based companies in the world, Microsoft was the first to have a facility awarded with a Zero Waste certification from the U.S. Green Building Council.
- Microsoft saw a 27% decrease in power consumed after their IT department created a specific power management system that efficiently controls 160,000 of their computers.
- So that their employees can make greener choices and reduce their own carbon footprints, Microsoft instituted a policy that allows for working from home and also provides commuting incentives.
6. Sierra Nevada
Beer seems like it would be an easy zero waste product to manufacture but companies such as Sierra Nevada show that it still takes an effort to make a difference. These efforts are why their Chico, CA brewery was certified as platinum-level zero waste company by the U.S. Zero Waste Council in 2014.
The certification wasn’t the only acknowledgment. Sierra Nevada claimed to save more than $5 million when they kept 99.8% to 100% of their waste out of landfills.
Sierra Nevada Zero Waste Facts:
- Sierra Nevada sends all of their used brewing ingredients (roughly 150,000 pounds of malted barley and 4,000 pounds of hops daily) to local cattle and dairy farms to be repurposed as feed.
- Their Chico, CA brewery is home to the first HotRot composting system in the U.S. and has turned more than 5,000 tons of organic waste into usable compost since 2010.
- Sierra Nevada uses the HotRot compost in their own fields and gardens but they also utilize a local composting company near their brewery in Mills River, NC.
7. New Belgium Brewing
The creator of the popular Fat Tire Belgian Style Ale is also a leader in the zero waste brewing world as they currently keep 99.9% of their waste out of landfills. Like Sierra Nevada, New Belgium Brewing was also certified as platinum-level zero waste from the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council.
New Belgium Brewing Zero Waste Facts:
- In order to see how they could eliminate waste, New Belgium conducted an actual waste audit of its more than 500 waste collection points in its Fort Collins, CO facility.
- After the audit employees came up with repurposing options for all waste materials.
- In 2016 New Belgium kept, even more, waste out of the landfill when they found a way to compost an organic material collected at their water treatment plant.
8. Fetzer Vineyards
Fetzer Vineyards is not only one of the largest wineries in Mendocino County, CA, but it has also been sustainable from its very beginnings. Fetzer was also the first winery to publicly report its greenhouse gas emissions with the climate registry while setting a goal to be net carbon positive by 2030.
Not to be outdone by its brewery counterparts, Fetzer is also certified as platinum-level zero waste by the U.S. Zero Waste Council.
Fetzer Vineyards Zero Waste Facts:
- Fetzer is the largest wine company in the world to receive B Corporation status.
- Fetzer is the first winery in California to operate on 100% renewable energy.
- Rather than discard their wastewater, Fetzer found a way to clean it up for reuse with the help of billions of waste product loving worms and microbes.
Unilever took the bull by the horns with their zero waste company efforts. In fact, at least 240 of its factories and 400 of its sites keep 100% of their non-hazardous waste out of landfills.
The financial impact of these changes was quite large. Unilever claims that zero waste not only saved them over $225 million but also created many new jobs in the process.
Unilever Zero Waste Facts:
- Unilever partnered with 2degrees in an effort to share their zero waste model with other corporations.
- Unilever has pledged to make 100% of their packaging recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.
- Unilever actually created new technology – the CreaSolv® Process – to specifically address recyclable packaging concerns.
10. Procter & Gamble
Procter & Gamble has set a sizeable zero waste goal. By 2020, as a company, they want to send zero manufacturing waste to landfill. By eliminating this manufacturing waste, Procter & Gamble would cut out 95% of the total waste they produce.
Their current progress is substantial – 55% of their sites now send zero manufacturing waste to landfills.
Procter & Gamble Zero Waste Facts:
In Hungary, Procter & Gamble’s Always team sends production scraps to a local cement company where they are incinerated for energy to make bricks.
- In China, production waste from one Procter & Gamble facility is composted and used as “nutritional soil” for local parks.
- In India, manufacturing scraps are shredded and compressed so that they can be made into wall partitions for housing and offices.
Editor Note: References made to businesses/companies in this post are not meant to convey endorsement by Rubicon of those companies in any way.