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:
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.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.
*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:
[Source: JG Press]
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.