What It Takes to be a Zero-Waste Business

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Earlier this summer, Tom’s of Maine released its first-ever Goodness Report – outlining health, sustainability and human welfare initiatives at the company. One of the most notable goals detailed in the report is to send zero waste to landfill by 2020.

Considering how waste-intensive manufacturing tends to be, the personal care brand’s lofty target got us thinking: What does it take to be a zero-waste business? We sat down with the Tom’s of Maine team to find out.

A Tom's of Maine employee separates materials for recycling at the company's manufacturing facility in Sanford, Maine. Photo: Tom's of Maine

A Tom’s of Maine employee separates materials for recycling at the company’s manufacturing facility in Sanford, Maine. Photo: Tom’s of Maine

“Here at the factory we take recycling pretty seriously,” said Peter Duquette, operations leader at the Tom’s of Maine manufacturing plant. “We’re conscious of not putting anything in the dumpster that we don’t have to.”

Located in the rural community of Sanford, Maine, the Tom’s of Maine manufacturing facility sent 90 kilograms of waste to landfill per ton of product produced in 2011, with a respectable 51 percent reuse and recycling rate.

To cut waste numbers down to zero, the team plans to take a multifaceted approach, which includes reducing waste at its source, expanding reuse and recycling and devising creative solutions to help consumers dispose of its packaging.

“Unlike a lot of other financial decisions that are made in a business, the financial decisions we make around reducing waste are decisions based on our core values,” explained CEO Tom O’Brien. “One of our core values is environmental responsibility, and to be environmentally responsible you better be focused on reducing waste.”

Read on for a cheat-sheet on how the Maine-based brand is shrinking its waste footprint, and visualize what’s possible if every American business did the same.

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Mary Mazzoni

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