Waste is an important issue embedded in the research of many of our programs. Accelerating the transition to a circular economy, tackling the impact of fast fashion and reducing food loss and waste are all areas wherein WRI has demonstrated leadership. WRI takes action on these issues within our own operations, by reducing material consumption and carefully managing the waste we generate.
Reducing Waste at the Source
Unnecessary consumption and the quick turnover of consumer products are major sources of material and energy waste. WRI tries to eliminate waste before it is created by changing how we operate and challenging staff to rethink their approach to waste at home and in the workplace. Some of our efforts include:
- Coordinating quarterly Circular Economy swap events for staff to exchange used clothing, home goods, books and gifts
- Connecting staff and guests with experts on different value chains like textile or electronics recycling as part of our Conscious Consumer series
- Going digital in our operations — from checks to contracts — saves paper and reduces the need for physical storage space
After source reduction and reuse, WRI focuses on recycling and waste recovery. We set a Zero Waste target to divert 90% of the office waste we generate to recycling and compost, so that only 10% or less goes to landfill or incineration. Each of our offices take different approaches to meet this target — some focus on reducing recycling contamination while others are piloting in-office composting. Key to these efforts is measuring our progress. WRI U.S. conducts waste audits every quarter to track our diversion rates and identify contamination problems.
Saying No to Single-Use Plastics
In 2018, WRI began its Plastic Free program to minimize single-use plastics in our operations and the waste our staff generate. Single-use plastics offer convenience and durability, but are only used for a minute fraction of their lifespan. Styrofoam cups and plastic bags take more than 500 years to break down, and never biodegrade. Plastics’ persistence in the environment has adverse effects on wildlife and human health. To mitigate these, WRI is:
- Replacing single-use plastics in our office purchasing stream with durable alternatives (e.g. fresh milk and non-dairy alternatives instead of single-serve coffee creamers, providing reusable silverware instead of disposables)
- Engaging our food vendors to avoid plastic packaging and disposables
- Engaging staff in yearly Plastic Free Campaigns to raise awareness on plastic pollution and challenge them to change their plastic-use habits
Watch the video below and join us on our plastic free journey!
Tackling Food Waste
Every ounce of food wasted represents wasted land, water, energy and labor used to grow that food. WRI is a Champion 12.3 dedicated to halving global food waste and strives to eliminate food waste from our operations. In our U.S. office, our first few waste audits in 2017 revealed that we were sending around 14 pounds of food to landfill each day, which adds up to 1.5 tons of food a year. To address this waste, we worked with our event staff and caterers to order just-right portions for our events. In addition, we ensured that leftovers are donated or made available to staff and inedible food scraps are composted. By the end of 2018, our waste audits revealed that our “Target, Measure, Act” approach was successful at reducing the amount of food sent to landfill by more than 75%, at under 3 pounds of food each day.