WRI strives to reduce material consumption and to manage waste thoughtfully. Waste is an important issue aligned with the research of many of our programs - from the challenges of waste in a circular economy, to fast fashion, and food waste - WRI is a thought-leader in sustainability and takes action on these issues within our own operations.
Reducing Food Waste
In conjunction with WRI's work on the Food Loss and Waste Protocol, food waste is also a major focus of our waste efforts. Tackling food waste is one of several complementary strategies to address a growing global food gap.
Working with vendors, WRI staff order just-right portions. Any food scraps or waste in addition are composted. WRI U.S. uses a D.C. collection service for composting, while WRI Brasil has started worm-bin composting in both Sao Paulo and Porto Allegre offices. Expect to see more global office participation in composting, especially as simple on-site solutions such as worm-bins or enclosed compost tumblers make the process accessible to any region.
Reducing Source Waste
As WRI's work in fast fashion notes, the quick turnover of consumer products (e.g. clothing, electronics, and more) also means quick landfilling of these various materials. To "walk the talk" on source waste, WRI has worked to encourage re-thinking of waste in the office, including several engagement efforts such as:
- Swap events to encourage staff to give new life to lightly-used clothing, books, home goods, and gifts
- Conscious Consumer series that connects staff and guests with experts on different value chains, such as textile and electronics recycling
- Paper-less operations, from checks to contracts, WRI operations has gone digital, not only saving paper but reducing physical storage space in the office.
WRI U.S. is also engaging in a Plastics Free campaign to eliminate single-use plastics in our operations, including plastic silverware, cups, plates, straws, bags, and many other ubiquitous items.
As a material, plastic offers convenience and durability, but in the long-term, single-use plastics are used for only a fraction of the time it takes to make and eventually dispose of the product. For example, it is estimated that it can take over 500 years for styrofoam cups and plastic bags to breakdown, and in many conditions, they do not fully biodegrade (Science Learning Hub). Further highlighting the challenge of breaking down plastics, scientists have found plastic in the deepest parts of the ocean (Marine Policy) and in our soils (Science Magazine).
Watch the video below and join us in our plastic free journey!
Tracking Our Zero Waste Goal
Each of our offices take on different approaches for their zero waste efforts - some focus on reducing recycling contamination, others have added organics composting, and many focus on re-use of materials. To further our commitment to reducing waste, WRI has established a zero waste goal, meaning that 90% by weight of our waste goes to recycling or composting and only 10% or less goes to landfill or incineration.
Tracking these efforts, WRI U.S. conducts periodic waste audits to track diversion rate and contamination problems, and to find new opportunities to support a circular economy that handles materials efficiently.