Bearded man smiles

This summer, I took a wonderful family trip to Washington. We basked in the beauty of Olympic National Park, tried our hand at glass blowing to make our own Christmas ornaments, and spent time with family and friends that we hadn’t seen in years. 

During our stay in Seattle, I was pleasantly surprised to see that nearly every facility we visited asked us to sort our trash into landfill waste, recyclable items and compostable materials as part of zero waste initiatives. For those not familiar with the term, zero waste is an effort to maximize waste diversion rates, reducing the amount of trash sent to landfills and instead recycling or composting the materials. Shortly after our visit, Seattle enacted a new law banning plastic drinking straws and cutlery in bars and restaurants in favor of reusable or compostable items, even further emphasizing the city’s commitment to zero waste. 

Most building service contractors offer waste removal, but according to our research, only 16 percent provide recycling services and even fewer offer composting. However, I think these numbers will increase soon, if not by choice, then by force through legislation or customer demand.

Fortune 500 companies, stadiums, universities and other facilities are already implementing zero waste measures as part of their sustainability plans. At the Interclean trade show in May, the Zero Waste Foundation was leading live demonstrations of anatomies of different waste streams. They encouraged attendees to get out of their seats, put on coats and gloves, and help sort the trash. I watched as typical office trash of paper, food scraps, plastic containers and more were taken out of one waste receptacle and placed into 16 others so the items could be recycled or composted. In the end, the facility that donated the trash found that only 9 percent of it needed to go to a landfill. 

Zero waste isn’t something that is going to be in high-demand next month or even next year, but it’s definitely coming. BSCs should start looking at how to get involved today and be ahead of the curve. It’s definitely an add-on service that can be turned into a revenue stream. As an added bonus, much of the material being diverted can be sold for additional revenue.