Why We’re Becoming a “Zero Waste” Manufacturer… Not Just “Zero Landfill”
At Stirling Ultracold, we’re very proud to offer products that are known for helping research organizations achieve their corporate sustainability initiatives. Of course, we realize that the claim of being “green” is made by virtually everyone in our industry. It’s unfortunate that “greenwashing” has become more of a marketing tactic than a real commitment to reduce environmental impact. For us, the call to sustainability has been at the heart of our belief system from the very beginning. This is reflected throughout our entire product line, as well as our corporate culture. That is also why we have embarked on an aggressive “Zero Waste” program throughout our business.
“Zero Waste” vs. “Zero Landfill”
As has been pointed out in an article by Eric Lombardi, Executive Director of Eco-Cycle, Inc., a focus on “Zero Landfill” implies that burning waste is acceptable. While diverting waste from our expanding landfills is a very good idea, the common practice of converting this waste through incineration generates high levels of greenhouse gases and atmospheric pollutants, which makes no sense environmentally, economically or socially.
At Stirling, we are transitioning our Athens, OH operation into a “Zero Waste” facility. This means that we are diverting waste from landfills through the processes of recycling, reuse or composting–not incineration. As part of this effort, we have also initiated a waste reduction program that targets inefficient consumption of materials in the first place.
Our Zero Waste Process
To assist in our transition to Zero Waste, Stirling Ultracold has established a local partnership with Rural Action, a community based sustainable development organization located in Southeast Ohio. Rural Action has been nationally recognized for its programs, and has worked with many partners in our region to deliver training, resources and support for enabling Zero Waste initiatives.
After ongoing consultation and training with Rural Action, we began establishing new practices and behaviors within our organization to fulfill guidelines of their “Zero Waste Pledge”. One example of this included recycling a significant volume of discarded plastic films, which were used by a nearby Marietta, OH manufacturer to make polyethylene guardrail offset blocks for highway safety.
To review our progress, the Rural Action team conducted a comprehensive “waste management assessment” of our Athens operation last fall. This report indicated that our Zero Waste initiative had achieved an impressive diversion rate of 98%! According to Rural Action’s Zero Waste Program Manager, Andrea Reany . . .
“Stirling Ultracold is already well on their way to becoming a Zero Waste Manufacturer and I have been impressed with their dedication to decreasing the amount of waste created throughout the organization.”
We feel very fortunate to have benefited from Rural Action’s excellent guidance and expertise throughout this transition. The next step in our process will be seeking Zero Waste Business Certification from an authorized agency later this year. When we are officially certified, I plan to follow up with another blog post. So stay tuned!