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Waste to Profit 2019 group looks at zero waste policy, BHAGs

Marc Lefkowitz  |  10/29/09 @ 4:31pm

Recycling 'waste' into profit was a topic discussed by one of twenty outcome groups formed at the 2019 Sustainable Cleveland Summit. The group met for the second time to discuss post-summit ideas last week. E4S staffer Victoria Avi led off with a call for businesses to take a zero waste pledge. E4S' zero waste network goal is to get 50 businesses to sign up and reduce their waste.

"We want to celebrate the fact that nine local businesses have already signed on," Avi said. The group identified strategies to reach more, including invitations to traditional media to lead sustainability panel discussions, and posting the Zero Waste Challenge on social media sites like Facebook.

Nancy Hughes, who runs the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo animal waste composting and resale program (aka Zoo Poo), gave an update on the downtown Cleveland district composting pilot. The route is set to launch November 2, and the Zoo is now signed on along with at least seven downtown businesses including The Q, Forest City and the U.S. Courthouse. The point of the pilot is to figure out the logistics of collecting food scraps and whether a route with multiple pickups is feasible.

Part of the 2019 group's recommendations was a zero waste policy that cities in Northeast Ohio can adopt. Zero Waste plans have been adopted in Austin, Boulder, Oakland and Seattle.

The group had members study common ideas and lessons. One link found between Boulder and Oakland was both were built on a grass-roots model started by Eco-Cycle, a volunteer group that organized recycling drives, studied the problem and advocated for a zero waste policy with city council. Seattle was the first city to pass a zero waste resolution in 1998.

"Boulder gives tax rebates for citizens to (recycle and compost)," said Jeri Leigh Siss of Nature Friendly Products. "They have short- and long- term goals. They have the metrics and a timetable to meet them, which is good because while it's important to have a zero waste by 2019 goal, we need to think about what are we doing in the incremental years toward that goal?"

In each of the aforementioned cities, the local government has taken the lead in establishing goals of Zero Waste. In general, local authorities have passed resolutions establishing either (1) guidelines from which a Zero Waste plan will be developed or (2) task forces as an intermediary to the development of Zero Waste plans.

In either case, it takes leadership from within city government to establish zero waste as a goal. That said, zero waste advocates recognize that 'zero waste' while a worthwhile goal is more of a process of eliminating waste and saving money.

Seattle defines zero waste as

A philosophy and a design principle that goes beyond recycling to take a 'whole system' approach to the flow of resources and waste through human society. It attempts to guide people to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where discarded materials become resources for others to use. Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to reduce the volume and toxicity of materials used and waste produced; to conserve and recover resources, and not to burn or landfill them. Implementing Zero Waste strategies could reduce discharges to land, water or air that may negatively impact human, animal or plant health. Zero Waste maximizes recycling, minimizes waste, reduces consumption and ensures that products are made to be reused, repaired or recycled back into nature or the marketplace.

The next steps for the 2019 Waste to Profit Group and the E4S zero waste network are to focus on the goals that developed-including a zero waste municipal policy and a zero waste summit-and to improve outreach.

E4S will focus its monthly meeting on Tuesday, Oct. 27 (5:30 p.m. at Great Lakes Brewing) on how your company, city or institution can set itself on the zero waste path.

The New York Times last week published a piece about zero waste moving from fringe to mainstream.

On a side note, the meeting took place at Servicemaster, a private disaster relief company. Servicemaster has taken the Zero Waste pledge because a part of its strategy is finding a way to recycle carpet pulled from disaster sites or clean lots that are being discarded. So far, the company has organized two shipments of carpet tiles back to carpet manufacturers who can grind them down and reuse them.

Resources

2019 Zero Waste policy research

Summaries of zero waste leading practices for:

Commonalities and lessons for Northeast Ohio

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