Zero waste is an approach to waste management wherein a majority (or preferably, all) waste produced by a product, facility, or organization is diverted from landfills (generally, into compost or recycling). A generally accepted threshold for 'zero waste' is 90%.
To achieve a status of zero waste, products and processes must be designed and managed to reduce the overall volume of waste produced. This can be done by eliminating the use of dangerous or toxic materials, recovering and reusing resources, and implementing recycling and composting. The process of achieving zero waste involves altering supply chains, staff and volunteer coordination, and waste management in facilities.
After studying the waste produced at a university football stadium over a year, an estimated 47.3 metric tons (mt) of waste was generated. The majority (29.6 mt of waste) came from off-site food prep and food-related activities (including, for example, service containers); of which over 96 percent (%) was pre-consumer and un-sold food waste. The rest (17.7 mt of waste) came from inside the stadium; recyclable materials accounting for 43%, followed by food waste, 24%.
It was discovered that scenarios achieving zero waste compliance are not the most effective means to reducing GHG emissions or energy use. The authors suggest the most effective approaches for GHG emissions reduction are eliminating edible food waste and recycling.
CITE: Costello, C., McGarvey, R., & Birisci, E. (2017). Achieving sustainability beyond zero waste: A case study from a college football stadium. Sustainability, 9(7).