Zero waste to landfill

What is zero waste to landfill and how can it be achieved?

Simply put “zero waste to landfill” means reducing the amount of waste that ends up in landfill.

Avoiding landfill
It goes without saying that landfill is not a desirable waste disposal solution, however it is not always easy to achieve this.
We know that landfill is bad, but why? Landfill is a piece of land that is used to dump waste, but that waste will essentially stay there forever, and we can’t keep filling it up.
Landfill produces foul smells, which are not pleasant for those nearby. However, the decomposing of the waste can also produce highly flammable gases, such as methane, which creates a dangerous situation.
Landfill is also a large producer of greenhouse gases and therefore, a large contributor to global warming and the climate crisis.
We already mentioned that the waste in landfill isn’t going anywhere. We know that a lot of materials that are disposed of in landfill, such as plastics and glass take a very long time to decompose (and we also know that this waste can be recycled!). However, food waste that gets caught up in landfill also takes longer to decompose, because it does not have access to enough oxygen.
Waste in landfill also produces leachate, a liquid that runs through waste – think bin juice on a massive scale. This leachate ends up in the environment, gets into water supplies and threatens the local environment.

Call to action
However, there are ways to avoid sending waste to landfill, and it really begins with a PSA to your residents.
Recycling – though most people do this without thinking, there is still more that can be done. Encourage your locals to separate and clean their waste appropriately. Provide recycling bins in the town centre, at parks and on busy walking routes. You can also work with local business, for example by encouraging coffee shops to only supply recyclable, reusable or biodegradable coffee cups.
Reusing or donating – Encourage locals to reuse their waste: cardboard boxes, jars and shredded paper can be used for storage. A plastic bag can be used many times! All of these can also be used for children’s craft activities without having to spend any extra money. Electrical waste and clothes can often be repaired before being thrown away.
If it still works and/or is in good condition, electrical waste and clothing can also definitely be donated. Charity shops and schools will often be grateful recipients of this kind of “waste”.
Waste to Energy – if all other avenues have been exhausted, waste can be taken to a waste-to-energy facility, where it is incinerated to produce electricity.

The waste hierarchy
The waste hierarchy is a model outlining the most desirable methods of waste disposal. Prevention is at the top of the model. Basically, the best way to not send waste to landfill is to not create it in the first place. This can be achieved by not printing off emails to save paper, meal planning to avoid food waste, or bring a packed lunch to work to avoid single
use packaging.
The second layer of the hierarchy is preparing for reuse. As mentioned above, many things can be reused to avoid going to landfill. Perhaps you could offer a clothing collection or electric collection service with your waste collections and then offer these to local organisations in need.
Next comes recycling. Many things can be recycled, and locals should be encouraged to do more. However, they do need the facilities and services in place to be able to do this!
Recovery is next in the hierarchy; this is transforming waste into energy, as explained above.
The bottom of the hierarchy is disposal to landfill, and this is what we are aiming to avoid.

With many organisations claiming zero waste to landfill, the Carbon Trust has created a certification to provide independent verification.
“The Carbon Trust Standard for Zero Waste to Landfill recognises organisations that demonstrate leadership in waste management.”
The standard recognises organisations taking a best practice approach to waste management, and actively diverting all appropriate waste streams from landfill.
It is noted that when aiming for zero waste to landfill, “zero” does not mean absolute zero. For example, the ash that is produced after burning waste must be disposed of. Also, some hazardous materials must be sent to landfill as there is no other option.

Case Study:
Westminster City Council’s Commercial Waste Services helped the Institute for Government, after the institute had problems with its private commercial waste collector. Westminster City Council’s Commercial Waste Services provided a revised collection set up, with a more reliable, transparent and sustainable approach to waste and recycling.
The council carried out a waste audit to establish where things could improve and put together an improvement plan for the collection of general waste and recycling from the institute’s headquarters.
A simple change was increasing the number of recycling bins to match the number of general waste bins. This encourages more recycling and also gives the means to do so. The collection of recycled waste was also increased to match the new bins. Following the change, the institute achieved a 37.5 per cent increase in their recycling rate.
Westminster City Council has an aim to eventually send zero waste to landfill and to process all future recycling through local facilities only.

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