What is zero waste? In manufacturing zero waste's goal is to reuse left over materials from the manufacturing of products, putting them back into the process to manufacture new products. Zero waste can also be carried out when a manufacturer of a product that is recyclable takes it back to its facility to reuse recycled product in the production of a new similar product. This closely resembles circular economy, but not completely, because all older products cannot be brought back for feed for reproduction, due to possible hazardous and toxic contaminants, asbestos being one.
The construction industry is continuously toiling to bring construction and demolition debris to zero waste to reduce, reuse, recycle, and salvage, but the construction industry is only accomplishing a 95% recycling rate. Again, hazardous and toxic wastes, like asbestos, are one of the problems standing in the way of 100% recycling.
Although recycling and zero waste are becoming a way of life, to get to zero waste takes hard work and constant diligent-awareness of how to avoid creating waste.
Recycling will continue to eliminate waste to the landfill, especially in the construction debris area. This was proven to me when I met the chief environmental engineer for the Metropolitan Transit Authority (MTA), Thomas Abdallah, who is faced with a herculean challenge of dealing daily with a subway system that is more than 100 years old. How Abdallah sleeps at night, I haven't been able to figure out. As I got to know Abdallah, I found him to be a "in the present thinker" but always looking to the future of how to improve the system and how to eliminate wastes, like asbestos, that are a constant pain. Abdallah recently told me that in the last renovation project he recycled 95% of the construction debris.
But the MTA doesn't manufacture; it provides transportation. So when improvements are made to the 100-year-old system, recycling becomes of great importance.
Our future is to think in terms of how nature works, i.e. re-fertilize to create a new crop, thus a circular economy.
A circular economy is going to take persistence and time to create, but it will be our environmental savior once created.
I recently met with the Armstrong flooring and tile company's Andy Lake, recycling infrastructure processing specialist, in charge of bringing used ceiling tile back into the manufacturing system. Lake arranged the meeting with his ceiling group and Armstrong's floor tile group headed by Lisa Y. Cavataio.
My observation of these two groups was that they are diligently working to develop Armstrong into a circular economy company by bringing back ceiling and floor tile to its birth for fertilizer for a new crop of building materials.
Lake and Cavataio, like Abdullah, are present and future thinkers.
The examples above are people who are environmentally conscious and are aware of the importance of sustainability, understanding what it means to the future of our environment and to the company's bottom line.