Zero Waste to Landfill validation is a critical first step for businesses pursing circularity. Learn more about how UL’s program began and why ZWTL is important to businesses.
UL ECVP 2799 Zero Waste To Landfill Environmental Claim Validation: Where it all started
The take/make/waste economy is not sustainable for the long-term survival of the planet. Out of a growing awareness of the hazards of climate change and the fact that natural resources are finite, UL’s Zero Waste to Landfill (ZWTL) program was born. Companies pursue ZWTL in an effort to conserve resources by reducing waste, promoting recycling and diverting landfill waste through reuse or repurposing.
A fundamental tenet of circularity and the circular economy, Zero Waste to Landfill began as a pivotal concept but was difficult to measure. What truly classifies as “zero waste?” UL’s ECVP 2799 Zero Waste to Landfill Environmental Claim Validation Program was developed to establish a clearly defined, measurable standard that defined “zero waste.” In 2012, GAF, a manufacturer of roofing and building envelope materials, became the first company to validate its ZWTL claim using UL ECVP 2799.
Why is zero waste to landfill important?
According to data from the Environmental Protection Agency, approximately 140 million tons of waste end up in U.S. landfills in a year.
Materials such as cardboard, metals and even precious elements like cobalt and lithium are discarded. These are materials that could be recycled or reused by industries. However, since the 2012 release of UL’s Zero Waste to Landfill Environmental Claim Validation Program, an estimated 4,500 tons of waste have been diverted per project.
With certified sites in approximately 19 countries, materials have been given a second life by major corporations in industries including consumer products, electronics, health and beauty and oil and gas. But companies that pursue ZWTL validation are also realizing benefits beyond their critical contribution to reducing waste with accompanying carbon emission reductions.
In many cases, the assessment process helps them identify cost saving opportunities and paths to increased sustainability. For example, the process may provide insight into waste being generated in the supply chain with excess packaging that can be streamlined to reduce waste.
In other cases, facilities that earn the ZWTL validation may contribute to credits for green building certifications such as LEED. The validation can also provide evidence of adopting requirements of ISO 14001, Environmental Management System Standard, which was updated in 2015 and fully replaced the previous standard starting in September 2018.
For example, the updated requirements suggest that companies consider generation of waste and/or byproducts in determining their environmental impacts, and state that organizations shall “consider the need to provide information about potential significant
As more organizations pursue zero waste, stakeholders have recognized that reduced waste also results in a carbon emissions reduction.
How? In the balance when materials are reused or recycled there is a reduction in energy use and the associated GHG emissions. When a product is recycled, there is energy used to transport resources and to convert them into other goods.
However, the extraction of natural resources, transport and conversion into goods require far more energy than recycling materials. In addition, by reducing the amount of material sent to the landfill, there is a reduction in the amount of methane gas produced, a byproduct of anaerobic decomposition of organic materials in landfills. Greenhouse gas emissions are also reduced when materials are reused rather than incinerated.
The general principle of reusing and/or diverting material from the landfill not only reduces waste in the landfill and the amount of natural resources extracted, but also minimizes carbon emissions, resulting in a plethora of benefits to the environment.
Major brands including Apple, BASF and ExxonMobil are part of the ZWTL movement and setting the bar for their industries to follow suit.
How has zero waste evolved since the initial standard was developed?
Initially published in 2012, UL ECVP 2799 is now on version three of the standard.
A balanced stakeholder panel was formed and adjustments made based on stakeholder interest in adding concepts such as on-site reduction and reuse, managing downstream material processors and more. Designed to be flexible for broad application, revisions to the standard add content that help ensure both clarity and applicability.
- A circular economy is based on the principles of designing out waste and pollution, keeping products and materials in use, and regenerating natural systems. Source: Ellen MacArthur Foundation.
- Infographic about Municipal Solid Waste in the United States in 2017 Source: Environmental Protection Agency
- “Did you know that zero waste also means carbon reduction?” Source: UL
"Environmental impacts associated with the transportation or delivery, use, end-of-life treatment and final disposal of its products and services.”