If achieving zero waste isn’t a part of your business to-do list, it should be. Waste costs businesses money and symbolizes poor design. As circular thinking is becoming popular, leaders from around the world are beginning to realize the perfect alignment between the zero waste philosophy and business performance. We are here to give you the breakdown— everything you need to know about what it means to be a zero waste business.

Zero Waste Defined

The Zero Waste International Alliance defines zero waste as “a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use,” (“ZW Definition, Zero Waste International Alliance,” n.d.). Zero waste means working towards waste management goals that help the environment. Mainly, companies implementing zero waste strategies are actively working to ensure their practices are not contributing to or creating toxic waste. They are working to conserve natural resources while eliminating the need for landfills.

A Zero Waste Strategy

Becoming a zero waste business means turning your “reduce, reuse, recycle” goal into something more detailed and measurable. A zero waste strategy requires a waste audit and setting easy to follow steps. All non-critical business materials are excluded (reduce), whatever remains is always repurposed (reuse), if it is unable to be repurposed, only then is it recycled. Food waste and organic material always composted. The goal is to send NOTHING to landfills or incinerators, thus producing no trash.

Zero Waste and the Circular Economy

It may seem daunting, but a zero waste strategy requires a new way of thinking- one that is circular rather than linear. Traditionally, a linear economy meant products were sold along with an end-of-life date, saying customers would dispose of the products in some manner. However, this all changed in 2002 when architect William McDonough and chemist Michael Braungart presented the theory of cradle-to-cradle production design.  They suggested that a circular economy, where “we keep resources in use for as long as possible, extract the maximum value from them whilst in use, then recover and regenerate products and materials at the end of each service life,” (“WRAP and the circular economy, WRAP UK,” n.d.).

Regenerative Thinking

For this theory to be implemented in businesses both large and small, leadership must adopt a way of thinking that is regenerative.  Easy ways to begin are reusing or selling your cardboard boxes, designing sustainable packaging, or even encouraging customers to send back products they no longer use so you can repurpose the parts. Essentially, businesses are attempting to create a cyclical model in which a product or parts of a product never reach an expiration date.

Moving Forward

Moving towards a circular economy represents a colossal shift in thinking, one that “builds long-term resilience, generates business and economic opportunities, and provides environmental and societal benefits,” (“Circular Economy Concept- Regenerative Economy,” n.d.). Do you have any ideas on how to implement a zero waste strategy in your business? Are you already doing it? Share in the comments below.


McDonough, W. (n.d.). Cradle to Cradle. Retrieved from http://www.mcdonough.com/cradle-to-cradle/

The Circular Economy Concept – Regenerative Economy. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.ellenmacarthurfoundation.org/circular-economy/overview/concept

WRAP and the circular economy. WRAP UK. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.wrap.org.uk/about-us/about/wrap-and-circular-economy

ZW Definition . Zero Waste International Alliance. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://zwia.org/standards/zw-definition/