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Reaching for Zero: The business value of waste diversion


June 25, 2015

As companies assess their environmental impacts, industry leaders like Walmart, the Waste Management Phoenix Open (the PGA's largest tournament), and Starbucks, are implementing waste diversion programs as a key part of a comprehensive CSR strategy. Many have their sights set on achieving the coveted zero waste to landfill milestone, starting at a facility-level and aiming globally.

Embarking on a journey of waste diversion – though rewarding operationally and financially – comes with significant challenges and considerations.

Credibility: As more organizations engage in self-declared waste diversion programs there is increased skepticism by business, consumers, NGOs and others about the validity of the reported waste diversion rates.

Accuracy: Presently, regulatory requirements regarding waste diversion vary considerably and with a lack of clear definition there is confusion and inconsistency in the metrics against which companies are measuring their progress related to zero waste. UL Environment was one of the first organizations to establish a set of consistent criteria through standard evaluation procedures to define waste diversion rates and against which to validate zero waste claims. Assessing against industry standards can provide greater assurance to claims made in the market.

Reputational Risks: With the lack of third party validation and an inconsistent way of measuring, companies making public commitments to waste diversion could open themselves to reputational risk if they are unable to substantiate their claims.

As always, however, with challenges come exciting opportunities to find hidden cost savings or even potential revenue streams. UL Environment has written a robust and transparent procedure for waste diversion accounting (UL 2799)  that specifies the acceptable waste stream treatment and diversion options. Companies that align their waste diversion programs, procedures and metrics to this third party standard are better prepared to share their results with confidence.

In addition to helping ensure accuracy of information, engaging an industry expert like UL Environment on waste diversion can help companies achieve their sustainability goals on multiple levels:

  • Education & Training helps companies conform to ISO 14001 training for waste-specific environmental aspects tracked as part of environmental management systems and serves as an employee engagement opportunity.
  • Comprehensive System and Process Reviews provide internal stakeholders with the information they need about the program – providing insights on resources to close gaps that may exist and identify opportunities for improvement.
  • Third Party Claim Validations provides additional credibility to go-to-market confidently with a waste diversion message.

More information on The Quest for Zero Waste and UL 2799 can be found in our new whitepaper.  To talk to someone about how UL Environment can help support or validate your company's waste diversion strategy, please contact

To learn how global leaders like Walmart are engaging with UL Environment to develop waste diversion strategies, check out our latest webinar More Than Just Trash Talk: Turning Waste into Opportunities - below.