January 11, 2024
min reading

Stop Dreaming And Start Building a Zero-Waste Business

Building a zero-waste business is possible. Learn what it means how you can begin the journey today in seven easy steps.

Stop Dreaming And Start Building a Zero-Waste Business
Table of Contents

According to the European Commission, the total waste generated in the EU by all economic activities and households amounted to 2,135 million tonnes in 2020. Only 39.2% of that waste was recycled, while 32.2% ended up in landfills.

When we look at our impact as citizens (and also as businesses), going zero-waste is an important goal—not only because it reduces the impact on the environment and complies with regulations, but also because it saves businesses and civilians money.

A zero-waste business means rethinking its processes, products, and consumption patterns to minimise or eliminate waste. Embracing zero-waste strategies can future-proof companies, making them more resilient, competitive, and environmentally responsible.

In this blog post, you will learn:

  • What a zero-waste business is,
  • Why waste is the secret to circularity,
  • And how your business can start its zero-waste journey in seven steps.

Are you ready to see what's possible?

What Is a Zero-Waste Business?

A zero-waste business commits to the circular economy and redefines its business operations and consumption patterns to minimise waste.

According to the Zero Waste International Alliance (ZIWA), zero-waste encompasses "the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health."

This definition emphasises the importance of waste management across the entire production cycle, eliminating incineration from the process. To be considered zero-waste, your business must divert 90% of the waste it generates away from landfills or incineration. And yes, that is possible!

This approach to waste management is a cornerstone of sustainable and responsible business practices. Let's look at why it's so important to keep waste in the loop.

Why Does Waste Need to be Kept in the Loop?

The escalating volume of business waste is a critical issue.

In 2023, the Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV), published a report stating that Germany alone generates 340 million tonnes of waste annually. Of that total, only 67% of municipal waste is recycled, against 70% of commercial waste. 

Although these are fairly significant percentages, we must remember that recycling should often be considered the last option for waste. Reducing and reusing are the priorities if we are to truly reduce waste.

A zero-waste business strategy aligns with both the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the net-zero ambitions of many businesses. By significantly reducing waste production and diverting materials away from landfills or incineration, your company will actively mitigate its environmental impact and progress toward achieving SDG targets, particularly those related to responsible consumption and production (SDG 12) and climate action (SDG 13).

Furthermore, transitioning to a zero-waste business model offers multifaceted advantages, enhancing your company's environmental, social, and corporate governance (ESG) credentials. This shift to a zero-waste business also aligns with regulatory requirements (such as the Green Claims Directive) and governmental pressures, securing market relevance and resilience.

However, one of the most immediate and tangible benefits of a zero-waste business approach is the potential for cost savings. Improved waste management practices will streamline operations, reduce disposal expenses, and optimise resource utilisation, consequently bolstering your company's bottom line.

By diverting materials for reuse, recycling, or repurposing, your business can effectively lower operational costs associated with waste handling and disposal.

"Transitioning to a zero-waste business model isn't just about reducing waste; it's a strategic and imperative move. It's a commitment to sustainability that not only safeguards our environment but also secures the future relevance and resilience of businesses in an evolving market." - Gary Lewis, CEO at Resourcify

How to Start the Transition Towards a Zero-Waste Business

The adoption of zero-waste practices is a significant step toward curbing waste pollution on a global scale and marks a crucial shift from the linear to the circular economy.

Integrating zero-waste practices is about finding ways to balance profitability with sustainability within your business. Here's a glimpse into how you can champion planet-conscious initiatives while maintaining traditional revenue streams, along with a few steps you can take to start the transition towards a zero-waste business:

1. Conduct a Waste Audit

A solid starting point involves evaluating your situation by identifying and examining your existing waste streams. This initial assessment is a benchmark to gauge progress and highlights areas requiring attention. For instance, if your audit uncovers consistent disposal of a particular material, this is an opportunity to reconsider and potentially reduce costs associated with its excess purchase and subsequent disposal.

2. Separate Waste Streams for Minimal Incineration

Diverting waste away from incineration starts with effective separation. Categorise waste streams and significantly reduce the amount sent for incineration, contributing to a more sustainable waste management system.

3. Explore Internal Waste Repurposing

Investigating alternative uses for waste generated within your own production cycle can be a game-changer. Repurposing waste streams for internal products or production processes can minimise waste and even create new revenue streams.

4. Direct Marketing of Waste Streams

Instead of leaving waste disposal solely to recyclers, consider marketing your waste streams. Engaging in B2B marketplaces or direct marketing enables businesses to not only earn from waste but also track and ensure responsible repurposing.

5. Enhanced Sorting for Increased Revenue

Investing in better sorting processes translates to more revenue potential. The more efficiently you sort your waste, the higher its value in secondary markets, creating additional income streams.

6. Optimised On-Site Handling

From container sizes to pick-up intervals, refining on-site waste handling can boost efficiency. Compacting materials and optimising storage can increase the volume sold to recyclers or repurposers in one go.

7. Strategic Partnerships with Recyclers

Diversifying partnerships with recyclers and waste management companies can improve contract terms. Switching from a single service provider to multiple partners can yield better pricing and more tailored waste solutions.

Going Zero-Waste is Possible for Your Business

The journey to a zero-waste business is possible and it begins with effective waste management.

When you reimagine waste as a resource and implement proactive measures, your business can move towards circularity while boosting profitability. You can uncover more circularity myths in this blog post and take the first step towards a greener, more profitable future today!


And if you're feeling overwhelmed, we are here to help! Watch our recorded myth-busting webinar and clear up common misconceptions about zero-waste initiatives for businesses.


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