It seems almost counter-intuitive, but Subaru is one of the world’s leaders in eco-friendly production. Not only did their Indiana plant (one of the biggest on the continent) hit Zero Waste nearly ten years ago in 2004, it was also declared a natural habitat thanks to the company’s absurdly nature-friendly practices. Honestly, these guys are greener than Greenpeace: 99% of all their waste is reused or recycled, and the remaining 1% is turned into electricity. Not an atom of waste escapes the compound, a policy which is reportedly saving them millions. What’s more, the guys at the top pass the benefits down to their workers. For 22 years the plant has seen no layoffs and steady wage increases.
Marks and Spencer
The ambitious Plan A scheme (with a disquieting tagline: ‘because there is no plan B’) of UK retail giant, Marks and Spencer, has catapulted them to reach Zero Waste in 2012, making Newsweek’s 10 Greenest Companies list. Part of a master plan that includes greatly reducing their carbon footprint, sourcing only ethical products and even changing the nation’s dietary habits (good luck on that last one, guys), this recent milestone was achieved after only 2 years. Helped in large part by a deal with a Glasgow waste management firm to turn all their food waste in electricity, M&S have surpassed even Waitrose to top the UK supermarket ‘green list’.
Companies Nearing Zero Waste
While reaching Zero Waste is a difficult target, many companies are well on their way. The following are aiming to reach Zero Waste in the near future and are well along the path already.
Because someone at Subaru is evidently amazing, they’ve freely shared their waste reduction techniques with fellow greenies at Honda. Of Honda’s 14 North American plants, 10 have reached Zero Waste. The remaining 4 have got their waste down to a measly 1%, most of which is stuff that simply can’t be recycled without very expensive, custom-made equipment. While they haven’t yet seen any return on the investment (it takes the better part of a decade before the savings start rolling in), they seem more than happy to spend that little extra for the sake of future generations.
The UK center for Epson manufacturing achieved Zero Waste last year, thanks to a deal with waste management consultants Valpak. This was achieved through a combination of strict targets, a heavy auditing of all waste produced, and a good old chunk of cash. While not quite as impressive as the achievements of Subaru or Honda, Epson has nonetheless got their waste down to a mere 5%, with 95% being recycled and reused. With targets to reduce even further in 2013, the ink and projector manufacturers are fast becoming a beacon for environmental best-practice everywhere.
Their ‘Common Threads’ initiative is all about reuse and repair, putting off recycling until there are no other options. They’re currently winning plaudits across the green world for this unique approach.
Since the 1990s, Xerox has been slowly heading toward a Waste Free plant; currently they recycle about 90% of waste, netting them savings of $45million.
With their UK plants already running at Zero Waste and other outlets soon to follow, Toyota is only a year or two away from joining our hallowed list.
Which companies do you think have done the most to become green in recent years? Do you think ‘Zero-Waste’ is the right thing to aim for?
Image courtesy of pixbox77 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Photo References from Author
Marks and Spencer: http://www.flickr.com/photos/uggboy/4183003355/