Working toward and achieving zero waste supports environmental, financial and public health goals? The goal of TRUE certification is to divert all solid waste from landfills, incineration (WTE) and the environment. And there are manifold health benefits for businesses that come from doing so. In fact, 68% of the credits in the TRUE Rating System directly impact human health.
The connection between waste and human wellbeing cannot be overstated. For example, 10% of the world’s population – or nearly 800 million people – depend on fisheries for their livelihoods, which are at significant risk due to the huge amount of waste that continues to flow in the world’s oceans every year, damaging ecosystems.
Zero waste also promotes safer products that protect our health. This means purchasing policies that prioritize non-toxic products and packaging, and reducing the use of disposable plastics when possible – particularly those which use harmful chemicals.
Here are just a few of the credits within the TRUE Rating System which illustrate the health benefits of zero waste and TRUE certification.
Redesign Credit 1: Right size collection containers and service levels
“Right sizing” collection containers helps ensure that there is no litter or waste overflow from trash or recycling bins. This helps eliminate externalities that can impact health, such as attracting insects or pests that carry diseases, lowering the hazard of waste workers that would have to interact with this exposed waste and ultimately removing the potential for waste to become mismanaged and end up in the environment as litter.
Reduce Credit 6 + 7: Practice grass cycling for all mowed surfaces + Reduce yard trimming waste through native landscaping or xeriscaping
By utilizing native plants and allowing grass clippings to break down in their natural cycle saves water, eliminates organic waste, and eliminates the need for chemical fertilizers which can be damaging to human health.
Reuse Credit 5: Use reusable/durable food service ware
Reusable/durable food service ware is essential for occupant health. By using food service ware that is durable and reusable, it eliminates the need for plastic and single use containers and silverware. BPAs and phthalates found in plastic water bottles, plastic storage containers, and the lining of food cans is harmful to human health as often the chemicals in these products can leach into our food and become toxic. By switching from single use plastics to reusable food service ware, we can better people’s health.
Reuse Credit 6: Donate all food safe for human consumption
Donating all food that is safe for human consumption reduces the amount of food waste that is sent to landfills and helps us the larger public health issue of hunger in our communities. When food and other materials start to decompose in landfills, leached chemicals can infiltrate into our waterways and ground water tables, impacting public health.
Compost Credit 1: Collect compostables separately from other materials and Training Credit 4: Clearly label all collection receptacles
By collecting compostables separately and clearly labeling all collection receptacles, MRF (materials recovery facility) workers no longer need to pick out contaminated or hazardous waste from recyclables. This benefits the workers’ health by eliminating exposure to these potentially dangerous materials. According to Wastedive, MRFs hold the fifth most fatal occupation in the country because of the daily hazards that employees encounter. Danger comes when picking out contamination from the recyclables, even while wearing durable gloves. By reducing the contamination in these recycling streams, companies can reduce risk to MRF workers and better their health.
Recycle Credit 1: Meet highest and best use for 80-100% of materials by weight
When materials are kept at their highest and best use, it eliminates the need to harvest/extract raw materials to make new goods, which has associated GHG and general health impacts. It also means less waste is going to landfills. While it is common knowledge that landfills affect the health of the general public, they also disproportionately impact the health of people of color and low-income communities.
According to a study done on the inequities of waste management, “environmental hazards are inequitably distributed by class, and especially race.” Disadvantaged communities are often forced into less desirable neighborhoods, including those that border landfills and waste treatment facilities. Over time, these facilities adversely affect these groups’ health. By meeting highest and best use for materials can keep these materials from landfills, reducing demand for these spaces and lessening the health effects on disadvantaged communities.
Zero Waste Purchasing Credit 6: Give preference to used, refurbished, and/or remanufactured goods
Used, refurbished, and remanufactured products not only eliminate waste and reduce costs, they can have important impacts on occupant health. Unbeknownst to most consumers, many products and packaging contain a large array of dangerous synthetic chemicals. Purchasing recycled, reused, or remanufactured goods can be less toxic and better for human health. Off-gassing is a dangerous process by which products leach chemicals into the air over time. By reusing or refurbishing old products off-gassing has most likely already occurred and is less likely to put harmful chemicals into the indoor environment. Purchasing refurbished or used goods also supports the creation of jobs and helps improve lives.
Leadership Credit 6: Promote zero waste in the community utilizing upper management personnel
Leadership promoting zero waste in the community brings value through outreach and encouraging community-wide diversion, reducing waste sent to landfills and incineration (WTE). According to The Commonwealth Fund, by creating partnerships with educational leaders, communities prioritize health needs and streamline resources to address them.
Hazardous Waste Prevention Credit 5: Collect universal waste from employees and/or customers
Household Hazardous Waste can often be disposed of improperly due to lack of knowledge of proper disposal or location that collects universal or hazardous wastes. If a company provides a location for collection of this waste from employees and/or customers, they help limit the improper disposal and amount of universal waste that ends up in the landfill. If universal waste is improperly disposed of and not reused or recycled, dangerous metals can leach into the land and ground water increasing toxicity and endangering the public.
If you’d like to take learn more about how TRUE addresses human health and wellness, review the TRUE Rating System, register for the TRUE Advisor or contact us. We look forward to working together to achieve a cleaner, healthier world!