• Jul 27th 2011 at 3:39PM
  • 9

It seems like all automaker's tout their zero-waste scheme, right? But is zero-waste all that it's cracked up to be?

Take, for example, Honda. In mid-July, Honda announced that ten of its 14 facilities in North America achieved zero-waste-to-landfill status. An accomplishment worthy of mention, right? Well, maybe not.

According to BioCycle magazine columnist, Eric Lombardi, the phrase "zero-waste-to-landfills" is often assumed to mean, well, zero waste. Problem is, zero waste doesn't equal zero-waste-to-landfills. Lombardi claims:
The problem with having a singular focus on the landfill implies that making energy from waste by burning it is acceptable. Waste-to-energy is a disposal technology that destroys resources forever; it makes things "go away," and doesn't reduce waste or protect natural resources.
It is a good thing when automakers try to clean up their entire supply chain, but Lombardi argues that some automakers might be touting zero-waste-to-landfill even as they burn half their discards. This, according to Lombardi, is nothing more than greenwashing at its best. Scratch that. At its worst.

*UPDATE: We included Honda in this post because of its recent announcement, not because Lombardi's claims were directed at Honda. To clarify, Honda send us the following statement:

Among all its 14 plants in North America, Honda currently sends less than one-half of one percent of operating waste to landfills.

So what about waste that does not go to a landfill that is the focus of his piece? At Honda, 95 percent of all plant waste is recycled or reused, and less than 5 percent is waste-to-energy. The implication that Honda "burn[s] half their discards" is inaccurate and must be corrected.

That less than 5 percent consists of materials that cannot currently be segregated for recycling or composting and are then disposed of through energy recovery. Examples of materials currently being sent for waste-to-energy are trash from restrooms and associate break areas, paint sludges and other miscellaneous process wastes. This waste-to-energy process is a last alternative for us and we continue to review opportunities to reuse/recycle and ultimately eliminate these waste materials

[Source: JG Press]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      2 Wheeled Menace
      • 4 Years Ago
      What? you mean they don't just take care of the stuff when we ship it to China?
      Dan Frederiksen
      • 4 Years Ago
      burning is not necessarily bad. landfill is always bad. and stuff like steel and other metals don't "go away" by burning. they can be gathered up and reused. fiberglass becomes glass or sand, a quite natural product. carbon fiber turns to CO2. it's only carbon based materials that 'go away' and that's not a problem if it's part of a CO2 neutral cycle. let's not make a solid step in the right direction a negative when it's probably quite difficult to do even better. in the future we might have technology that can sort stuff very neatly and reuse it all without emitting heat. so far it seems the bigger task is at the other end. not to use fossil fuel in the first place.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Dan Frederiksen
        So its OK to burn waste including plastics which release tons of toxins into the air, but it is not OK to burn gasoline in a range extender that is rarely used? Pick a side and stick with it. Keep in mind that the exhaust coming out of a cars tailpipe passes through a catalytic converter and is relatively clean, look at the exhaust coming out of a waste to energy plant - always looks grey to me....
        Marco Polo
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Dan Frederiksen
        ..It was bonfire night, (Halloween), and the little troll was mystified why all the other pupils at his school were suddenly being tolerant of his presence. he hadn't been throw in the pond for almost a week! He'd overheard some of the bigger boys talking in excited whispers, while planning the bonfire and the effigy to be burned. He pondered what, "burning isn't necessarily bad", signified. One large boy had even said it was a "good way to get rid of useless rubbish", while looking straight at him,and laughing nastily. He wondered what it all meant, and as always, a jealous fit overcame him about anything that brought pleasure or fun, to the other students. Spitefully he resolved to sabotage the festivities, as if his life depended on it! ...little did he imagine, how right he was......! 'From the 'Early Life of Trolls', pub. Faber &Faber, $12.99 (in Paperback) 2nd edition.' (Serial rights syndicated #)
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Dan Frederiksen
        Dan What nonsense! Burning waste releases untold amounts of toxic pollutants in the air, and its been banned in many states since it caused extreme smog.
          • 4 Years Ago
          Nick: How would you feel about waste-to-energy, if emissions controls and standards were as strict for such plants as they are for other combustive thermal generation plants? I don't believe these plants should be permitted to pollute without being part of the existing Hg trading markets and other regulatory mechanisms, but the general principle seems like a great idea to me.
      • 4 Years Ago
      OK, but if you burn it for energy instead of sending it to rot in a landfill, you're replacing the fossil fuel for energy that the plant would have used. The material would have emitted pollutants either way, by rotting or by burning. Now if you're just burning it to get rid of it but not getting any energy from it, that's certainly misleading.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The zero waste to landfill nonsense reeks of greenwashing 10 miles away. How could anyone fall for that anyway? Everyone who knows how a manufacturing plant works knows its nonsense.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The statistic should simply be a percentage of material not used that is RECYCLED, versus disposed of via landfill or burning.
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