Case Study: Zeroing in on Waste Management Improvement

Challenges  

A leading technology firm in the transportation-as-a-service (TaaS) sector was amid its zero waste journey, seeking to reduce its high waste volume. With up to 2,500 visitors daily to their San Francisco office and a full-service catering kitchen that prepares over 3,000 daily, this initiative proved daunting. Armed with an in-house sustainability team dedicated to waste program design, the company had a strong foundation but needed strategic guidance to drive its ongoing improvement goals.

The internal team at the firm had already fostered a strong zero-waste culture by communicating with employees, providing resources, and implementing a centralized collection system marked with clear signage. Despite notable progress, the tech firm acknowledged the desire for a more robust strategy in its sustainability efforts. Due to the size of the campus, the on-site catering kitchen produces mass amounts of waste from food preparation and packaging products. Change in the organizational culture needed to be more comprehensive as well. Some employees continued improperly disposing of waste by not choosing the correct three-stream bin or by bringing bins from home outside the prescribed office program. This ongoing challenge prompted them to partner with Service by Medallion to uncover systematic improvement opportunities to achieve the next level of zero waste. More specifically, to decrease the volume of material destined for landfills and minimize waste contamination. 

Solutions 

Using a systems approach, Medallion conducted a thorough waste audit, which involved monitoring and categorizing all waste generated by the firm over a 24-hour period. This comprehensive methodology resulted in numerous landfill reduction process solutions shared at the results follow-up session with the sustainability team. Among the recommendations was the employment of three full-time master waste sorters to manage the high-volume waste at the San Francisco headquarters. As Medallion gained a deeper understanding of the waste composition, the team also identified upstream purchasing processes involving materials that would have otherwise ended up in the landfill. Through a collaborative approach between the procurement team, catering contractor, and snack program vendor, the company and Medallion directed their efforts toward sourcing alternative sustainable materials that could be sorted more effectively. The remaining waste generated by the on-site kitchen service was now being properly composted and recycled.  

Medallion also identified approximately one ton of material monthly that could be eliminated from the landfill stream during the waste sorting process. As a result, Medallion introduced a third-party recycling service specializing in processing commonly procured materials, such as the personal protective equipment (PPE) and nitrile gloves used across the organization.  

Medallion’s Zero Waste advisors constructed a comprehensive system that involved hiring and training waste sorters to identify everyday items incorrectly disposed of, reevaluating packaging byproducts, and working with a third-party recycler to optimize landfill diversion efforts. Advancing a zero waste program requires rigorous process and dedication, but substantial results can be achieved with the right partners. 

Results 

The technology firm made significant strides in minimizing its environmental impact, aligning with the company’s overarching Environment, Social, and Governance (ESG) initiatives. A key metric in waste management is landfill diversion rate. The landfill diversion rate is the percentage of waste diverted from landfills and sent for recycling, composting, or other forms of waste treatment. The firm elevated its landfill diversion rate to 97-98%, a remarkable achievement that surpasses the city of San Francisco’s diversion efforts of 80%[1]. By analyzing the waste streams, Medallion optimized the firm’s waste processes, making operations more efficient and reducing waste at the source within a month.  

Regardless of the foundation upon which a zero-waste program is built, a systematic approach to continuous improvement remains a constant and vital aspect of sustainable initiatives. Medallion has remained involved in the technology firm’s efforts, helping them surpass mere compliance to emerge as true leaders in zero-waste practices. 

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[1] San Francisco Environment Department. “San Francisco Sets North American Record for Recycling & Composting with 80 Percent Diversion Rate,” accessed May 6, 2024, https://www.sfenvironment.org/blog/san-francisco-sets-north-american-record-recycling-composting-80-percent-diversion-rate#:~:text=San%20Francisco%20diverts%2080%20percent,Greenest%20City%20in%20North%20America.

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