Net Zero or Zero Waste?

12th September 2022

Charlotte Davies

With businesses, individuals and organisations all wanting to do their bit for climate change, the big question is what should we do to help the planet? - Introducing the question Net Zero or Zero Waste?

Generally, throughout the environmental sector there has been an intense Net Zero focus, with organisations taking steps to becoming carbon neutral by minimising emissions and offsetting those that are unavoidable. The current UK Net Zero Strategy: Build Back Greener and legislation such as Energy Saving Opportunity Scheme (ESOS) and Streamlined Energy and Carbon Reporting (SECR) (both compliance services Comply Direct can support your business with) focus on reducing organisational carbon, specifically emissions from energy associated with buildings, transport, and systems.

Although this is a positive start, it is important to recognise only 55% of emissions are derived from energy. The other 45% of emissions comes the products we use every day, from products themselves, the raw materials used, the manufacture process, packaging emissions, delivery to the customer and disposal of both the packaging and product (Ellen Macarthur, 2022). To help reduce the emissions from this harder to target sector, a focus from linear to circular economy is necessary. The elimination of waste is one of the key steps needed to reach circularity, encouraging the idea of ‘Zero Waste’.

Zero waste is defined as “the conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse and recovery of products, packaging and materials – without burning or discharges to land, water, or air that threaten environment or human health”.  Achieving complete zero waste is a challenging prospect and unattainable for most companies. However, reaching 90% operational waste reduction, reuse, repurpose or recycle compared to the original baseline is an accepted approach. Zero waste is difficult requiring a combination of behaviour change, modification to businesses models, infrastructure and technologies or long-term partnerships. More realist approaches focus on maximising circularity, encouraging local innovation and development, while exploiting inevitable residual waste through Energy from Waste. Zero Waste to Land Fill offers a feasible solution to Zero Waste for businesses promoting circularity, waste reduction and improved waste transparency. Comply Direct can support businesses in reaching Zero Waste to Land Fill certification.

So, to answer the question Net Zero or Zero Waste? There is no simple choice… the two ideals both deserve equal consideration often working in favour of one another. For instance, Net zero will never be achieved without assistance from the circular economy, through reductions in waste helping to reduce emissions. Businesses should look to continue efforts to minimise emissions, with wider consideration of the circular economy through waste reduction, material optimisation and product design, combining the two, into a low-impact business outlook.  

Comply Direct are hosting a FREE business event at the National Oceanography Centre in Liverpool, focused around both resource efficiency and carbon initiatives to help reduce human impact on our oceans. Join us on Wednesday 12 October to hear from industry experts and connect with like-minded businesses to start your environmental journey. Register your free place HERE.

Should you have any questions about our services, that can support you achieve both Net Zero and / or Zero Waste, email our solutions team today, on solutions@complydirect.com, alternatively call 01756 794 951