Zero Landfill: Can it be done?
As the Zero Waste movement gains momentum, changing consumer habits and environmental impacts are incentivizing companies to set reasonable goals toward recycling 100% of their waste products. Some believe that while this effort is a great start, the race to zero landfill could be better achieved if more companies stopped using packaging that cannot be recycled.
Life cycles found in nature don’t produce any waste. The philosophy of the Zero Waste movement is to mimic natural life cycles as consumers so that all products we buy can be reused or recycled, and no trash is sent to landfills or incinerators.
Packaging that cannot be reused or recycled is in direct opposition to this movement, and is reason why grass-roots think tanks like Upstream are working with public interest groups, government agencies, leading companies and like-minded individuals to advocate for sustainable packaging that can be reused again and again. Upstream representatives feel that in order to truly achieve a zero landfill output, companies need to focus on changing practices from the top of their business model down, not just rely on alternate disposal of the waste they already make.
Single use packaging used by fast food chains, beverage companies and other consumer foods companies pose the biggest problem as they are in high demand but cannot be recycled.
Fortunately some major companies like Colgate Palmolive are coming around to the reality of the situation. The brand giant has made a commitment to switching three of their product sectors to recyclable packaging by 2020, and they are working hard to develop a recyclable toothpaste tube for their fourth sector, oral care. The company is attempting to take it a step further by looking to source at least 50% of the materials needed to make the packaging from sustainable, recycled sources.
Keurig Green Mountain Coffee, maker of one-use coffee pods that cannot be recycled, has also agreed to have new packaging in place by 2020.
It will be very interesting to see how the industry will be affected by the actions of these new thought leaders when they take their products to market in the next few years. If the consumer response is positive, one can only hope that the sustainable packaging revolution will fuel the race to a zero landfill reality.