In 2005 (our baseline year), we sent 2,415 tons of waste to local landfills at a cost of over $100,000 USD. Our monthly waste costs were escalating with no apparent end in sight. This prompted our company to take a look to see if we could somehow manage and control our waste costs. With the assistance of a waste diversion consultant, we learned that we had many recyclable materials in our waste stream. Our initial target was old corrugated cardboard (OCC), which represented about 50 percent of our waste stream. If we could divert the cardboard to a cardboard baling machine, we could reduce our waste costs by about 50 percent and earn recycling revenues at the same time.
While our zero waste journey took several years, we didn't have a zero waste road map (or even knew what it was at the time). As we mastered one recyclable material, we targeted the next and continued material by material until we reached an 85 percent waste-to-landfill diversion rate. It was in 2011, that we discovered what zero waste was and just how close we were to the 90 percent threshold. This motivated our organization to tackle the final challenge within our waste stream: compostable materials. Once a commercial compost permit was received, we diverted enough compostable materials to achieve a 95 percent waste-to-landfill diversion rate in early 2012.
We formed a Green Team that consisted of all of the company's employees. This helped change our culture and created awareness as well as increased employee participation to help achieve our goals. To date, the company has saved over $1.8 million dollars in waste hauling expenses. After breaking even on our waste costs by mid-2010, the company has been in the Black ever since and enjoys having benefited from receiving "The Ca$h in our Tra$h".
Achieving GBCI’s TRUE Zero Waste certification in 2014 has further enhanced our company's recognition for environmental awareness and sustainability achievements, but has also benefited our company with additional sales and revenues from our customers (and prospective customers) who seek to align themselves with sustainable vendors.