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The Zero Waste Supply Chain

A few short decades ago, the idea of becoming zero-waste was for very dedicated individuals only, not for large companies. Today, however, more and more companies are recognizing the value of pursuing zero-waste, and it is quickly becoming a reality for numerous organizations. Unilever, Nestle, and many other of the world's largest companies have already begun initiatives working towards reducing or eliminating waste throughout their supply chains.

Zero-waste initiatives aim to eliminate all landfill-bound wastes by replacing these items with recyclable, compostable, or repurposable alternatives. They also focus on preventing the wasting of products such as foods and other materials. Most commonly, zero-waste initiatives focus on product packaging, as well as consumable items such as food and beverage products. That being said, any industry can work to reduce unnecessary wastes by creating zero-waste initiatives.

According to Unilever, approximately 1.3 billion tonnes of solid waste is collected worldwide every year. About 80% of this waste ends up in landfills, but it doesn't need to be this way. Traditional packaging materials can easily be replaced in many cases with recyclable or compostable alternative materials, preventing these items from entering the landfill in the first place. Other companies are working to create repurposable packaging which can be reused for the same purpose or for something new once it has fulfilled its initial purpose.

Circular logistics - the act of returning and reusing items through a supply chain - is another common effort in the zero-waste movement. Here, companies utilize reusable packaging to deliver their products. Once the customer is done with these items, the packaging is returned to the company to be cleaned and used again for the next customer. This way packaging does not have to be recycled or composted, and can simply be used repeatedly for multiple orders.

Eliminating waste can also start by avoiding it in the first place. This begins in the procurement and production of goods and raw materials. As a whole, the world wastes about a third of the food we produce. Companies seeking to reduce this staggering amount have turned to data and technological solutions to better predict and anticipate demand, helping to ensure we do not overproduce food which will likely be wasted. Additionally, this improved data and technology can help to monitor safety measures such as temperature control systems to ensure food safety is maintained. Food for which safety has been compromised will inevitably be wasted, so eliminating the compromises to safety helps to decrease wastes. When food safety is a concern, as in the case of a contamination incident, technology such as blockchain can help to quickly identify which products need to be destroyed and which are safe. This technology enables only contaminated and unsafe food to be wasted, saving uncontaminated and safe food.

The zero-waste movement is also growing in popularity among consumers. More than ever before, customers are seeking to purchase products with little or no packaging, and more eco-friendly options when no packaging isn't an option. Additionally, zero-waste and refiller markets - like Canary in our home town of Calgary - are popping up in major cities around the world. These markets allow consumers to purchase food and household items in their own refillable containers, thereby eliminating the need for consumers to waste packaging when purchasing these items.

Neither consumers nor corporations can completely eliminate all the world's waste alone. Rather, joint efforts between consumers and corporations will be the most effective way to eliminate unnecessary waste and protect our planet. As a culture, we need to focus on more awareness of environmentally-friendly options for the products we purchase every day. Additionally, we need greater investments in green technology, improving our supply chain data and allowing companies to more easily become zero-waste.

Did you know Routeique strives to help companies reduce their carbon footprint and become more eco-friendly? Check out how we're helping companies to reduce their fuel usage and driving time on our route optimization feature page, or check out how we help companies to reduce their paper waste on our mobile invoicing feature page and our proof of delivery feature page!

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