What is the Zero-Waste Movement and Why Does It Matter?
There is a really cool movement that’s been growing since 2006 called zero-waste, and the ramifications of the zero-waste movement, we think, far and above exceed simply beginning to recycle and starting a composting program.
Now, if you’ve been following along with the zero waste movement at all, some of this might be a little repetitive, but if zero-waste is new to you hold tight because there are some really revolutionary ideas built into the architecture of the zero-waste movement that will very likely change every industry within the next five years.
First, What Is Zero Waste?
There are a few definitions of zero-waste that focus on the concept from different perspectives.
- Wikipedia says: “Zero Waste is a set of principles focused on waste prevention that encourages the redesign of resource life cycles so that all products are reused” -we prefer this definition
- Vox simply says its goal is to, “Create as little garbage as possible.”
- And the US Conference of Mayors has its own (very exhaustive) definition available here.
To put it simply, with zero waste, the ultimate goal is to continually reuse a product without ever permanently discarding it. So, with a zero-waste system, we reduce, reuse, and recycle. Sure. However, the implications in this area that we fundamentally change the way we view resources, product management, and the system architecture of resource utilization.
Why Is Zero Waste Important To The Waste Management Industry?
The concept of recycling has been around for many decades at this point and we’ve seen it manifest in renewable consumer goods as well as an updated waste management process, but it hasn’t gotten to the point where it’s fundamentally changed the waste management industry.
That’s what we think is different about the zero-waste movement. With zero-waste, the implications are at a much more fundamental level than just recycling a simple consumer good. It speaks to a driving force that’s been steadily and sometimes very rapidly changing our economy for the past hundred years, and that’s the concept of lean. Now lean is a concept first developed by the manufacturing industry, and it aims to remove waste from processes. This was such a radically profitable exercise though, that it’s now been adopted in every industry and we’ve seen that the companies who’ve adopted lean principles have become far more profitable than those who haven’t. Which is an ever more Darwinian economy means those companies that adopt lean principles will always win out over those who don’t.
So if we look at the zero waste movement from the lens of a new manifestation of an otherwise lean principle, we’ll very quickly see that this is something that will continue to shape the manufacturing, product development, Waste Management Industries at a foundational level.
Going deeper, let’s first focus on the manufacturing industry, and that with implementations of zero-waste it’s highly likely that companies that manufacture consumer goods are going to continue to more deeply source their materials from what’s being called the circular economy than they will through raw material providers. The consequences here are that companies will begin to forge long-term sourcing agreements with one another, and will begin focusing on more interdependent relationships between their providers to ensure that the materials they are sourcing from their partners are still at a high-quality status at the moment of procurement. Meaning, the end-users still enjoy a quality product, while the manufacturer enjoys higher margins from the waste reduction.
This then leads to the product management world.
Going forward, product managers are going to be more systematic in how they develop and source new consumer goods, so that they fit (or better fit) into a larger ecosystem of resource management and thus better retain their value (i.e. are able to be resold to manufactures further in the value stream).
An example of this would be a pop can, wherein a circular, zero-waste environment, that pop could have been a car in a prior life, and after its initial pop can use it might be a reusable drinking cup, and then perhaps after it’s damaged enough to merit being discarded it goes back to being billet aluminum where the process repeats, seemingly forever.
Now what’s really important to note here isn’t the life of the pop can, or the aluminum, or the re-use ability of the product. It’s the profitability obtained by the car manufacturer, the soda pop producer, and the recycler as a result of removing all the non-reusable (wasteful) components in the life of that pop can (i.e. non-renewable paint for each product, non-renewable packaging, or the cost of sourcing the raw materials from the earth).
So when you’re looking at how the zero waste movement will affect our society, don’t look at it from the perspective of saving the environment, but rather look at it as companies trying to become extremely efficient and profitable as a result of wasting absolutely nothing. Bi-products, scrape, and every piece of packaging in between being reused or resold to partners.
Then take that idea and look at zero-waste from the lens of how it would affect a consumer. Because this is very likely to be how the future unfolds for waste managers as a result of the zero-waste movement.
How The BurCell System Contributes to the Zero-Waste Movement
We think in the future waste management is going to be more about building brokerage relationships with manufacturers and product managers than it will be about permanently disposing of waste. The major difficulty with overcoming the value gap between incoming municipal waste and outgoing feedstocks, compost, or reused raw materials is the processing involved.
This is where the Burcell System comes into play. By ingesting raw municipal waste, in a large-scale batch format, and processing it to reclaim the value of each core material we’re enabling the circular economy (and waste managers/manufacturers in particular) with the means through which to reclaim value, build those brokerage agreements, and reclaim margin in a new and profound way.
What Happens to Waste In The BurCell System?
Waste is first brought to our facility. Our tools then separate any large and bulky items that could interrupt the process or harm the system.
After the separation takes place, the materials are then moved onto a shredder. The shredding process is intended to increase the surface area of the material and the amount the system can process in one batch. Once the material is shredded and the capacity is bulked up, it’s then ready to load into the BurCell System.
Once the system is full and ready to go, one of our team members adds water, heat, and draws a vacuum to begin the operating cycle. At this point, the BurCell System will continue to rotate to break down organic waste at a quick pace.
Once the waste is broken down, the material is loaded onto another conveyer where the inorganic components including metal, glass, and plastic are separated from the organic byproducts for the anaerobic digestor.
The BurCell System: Taking the First Step to Zero Waste
The BurCell system is the perfect solution to enabling value reclamation and the circular economy while working towards zero waste.
To learn more about our system and how it works, or to schedule a demo, check out our latest blogs or contact our team today!