Zero Waste Trash Talk: Turning Garbage into Revenue and Impact

Stacy Savage from Zero Waste Strategies on EnvironMental Podcast with Dandelion Branding

We are in a five alarm, six alarm situation here whenever it comes to the climate crisis. So everybody needs to do their part. But companies, they are the biggest polluters on the planet. And they have got to stop shifting the blame and the onus on the individual consumer. They have got to step up and they need to be leaders within their industry.

Stacy Savage talking about the importance of businesses going zero waste

In this episode of EnvironMental with Dandelion, we welcomed Stacy Savage onto the show! Stacy is the founder and CEO of Zero Waste Strategies – which celebrated 11 years in business in January, 2024 – and she joined us to talk about the transformative power of waste reduction in businesses!

The goal of Zero Waste Strategies is said simply: to drastically reduce waste to landfills and incinerators. But you can imagine that so much goes into what they do!

The Zero Waste Business Efficiency Concept (Trash is Cash)

When Stacy was talking about creating zero waste plans with businesses, we were struck by how holistic her concept is. She explained that her business isn’t just focused on the benefits for the environment. They’re also very dedicated to helping businesses boost revenue, deepen customer loyalty, empower their employees, and provide a green marketing edge.

While the benefits like deepening customer loyalty and using zero waste as a competitive edge in marketing make sense, we were curious about the revenue streams that come from zero waste strategies. So we asked – we learned one of our favorite lessons so far: trash is cash!

We learned that there is a lot of low-hanging fruit here. For instance, some types of ‘trash’ are a commodity – like cardboard. Most companies get it with their product deliveries and then send it straight to the landfill. If it’s properly separated and stored, it can be sold! Someone will come by and even pick it up!

Other new revenue streams take a bit more engineering, but Stacy says it starts with the mindset. Start by asking, “how something can this be used again?”

“You’re paying for it twice. You’re paying for it on the front end because it’s coming into your business and you’re using it wherever. And if you’re just using it like think about single use plastics. I mean, it’s a fork. You eat with it, it gets chucked and it goes to landfill. So what are the alternatives? Can we reduce waste through reuse, through repair, through remanufacturing, re fabrication, reselling, upcycling, down cycling?”

Stacy Savage

Accountability: Legislation and TRUE Zero Waste Certification

During our conversation, we talked about the responsibility that businesses have to dealing with waste and how common it is, even now, to see the onus landing on the individual consumer to make changes in their behavior and their demands.

We agreed that legislation also plays and important role here because laws can help shift the responsibility. Stacy gave the example of the success of the e-waste takeback law and the TV takeback law, which have diverted millions of pounds of e-waste from landfills. These laws hold producers accountable for the disposal of toxic electronics, a critical step in protecting our environment.

Legislation and certifications are also important for setting standards. It’s very easy for businesses to commit to zero waste because they can say the words and then do very little. Most people will believe the businesses they trust.

We learned about the True Zero Waste certification, which demands a 90% waste diversion rate to be considered. Zero Waste Strategies plays a pivotal role, conducting waste audits and assisting in developing a master plan. The process is rigorous and typically takes 18 months to two years, but the outcome is a testament to a facility’s commitment to sustainability.

Challenges & the Changing Tides in Zero Waste

Legislation, certification, and shifting the onus are necessary, but they don’t come without hardships.

Stacy didn’t shy away from discussing the challenges in implementing zero waste programs, such as inadequate recycling and composting infrastructure. There are many parts of the US that don’t have access to real infrastructure for industrial recycling or composting. Not to worry, hope isn’t lost! She stressed the importance of collaboration, particularly with farmers and ranchers, to reduce food waste and underscored the influence of corporate culture in prioritizing sustainability.

We also talked about education – like with the e-waste bill example. While that has diverted hundreds of thousands of pounds of e-waste, it’s still an under-used avenue of e-waste recycling. Why? There wasn’t a budget to teach people about it after the law passed.

But we have hope on this front too. Social media and the availability of information about climate change has made educating the masses about sustainability a lot simpler. Stacy said that she’s seeing a lot more buy-in these days than she did a decade ago because sustainability is finally part of a mainstream conversation.

We have a long way to go to make it part of our everyday culture, sure, but little by little we’re getting there.

If you want to get in touch with Stacy and chat with her about Zero Waste Strategies in Texas, here’s where you can find her.

Want to be a guest on EnvironMental podcast?

More From EnvironMental

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *