Iowa’s Only 2 Zero Waste Companies

Iowa’s Only 2 Zero Waste Companies
Posted in: Book, Business Started by

Iowa’s Only 2 Zero Waste Companies

We all know that waste reduction (e.g. recycling, responsible purchasing, process improvements) in our companies can save money and keep valuable raw materials out of the landfill. Perhaps you’ve heard that the culmination of waste reduction, product, and packaging efforts within a business can help them achieve the holy grail, zero waste certification. But what does that mean? And why are there only 2 in Iowa?

The Zero Waste International Alliance (ZWIA) was organized in 2002 to create zero waste standards that could followed worldwide. In their words:

Zero waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.

Said another way, and tailored for the business community, zero waste means tracking and measuring all waste streams to the landfill such that they can be diverted toward a useful purpose. The data gathered will enable companies to redesign products and packaging to systematically avoid and eliminate all waste. This includes avoiding toxic materials, conservation and recovery of resources, and working not to burn or bury any waste. According to ZWIA, “implementing zero waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.”

Zero waste certification of a facility or company ranges from 90 to 99 percent diversion rates. The Zero Waste certification administered by the US Zero Waste Building Alliance and Green Business Certification, Inc. (GBCI) requires 90 percent diversion and gives no credit for incineration. It is the same for the Zero Waste Facility™ certification managed by GBCI in association with LEED–O+M (Operations and Management). Zero-Waste-to-Landfill certification is defined by UL Environment (UL 2799) and the only certification requiring a 99 percent diversion, allowing for less than one percent incineration.

Zero Waste in Iowa

Today, while many are considering this admirable goal, only two Iowa companies are certified zero waste facilities or companies: West Liberty Foods and Perishable Distributors of Iowa. Expect more to follow their lead.

West Liberty Foods

West Liberty Foods is a cooperative manufacturer, co-packer and meat processor founded 1996 with 1,900 employees today. The company is a Founding Member of the Iowa Sustainable Business Forum with operations in West Liberty, Sigourney, and Mount Pleasant, Iowa, as well as Tremonton, Utah. All four facilities are Verified Landfill-Free by NSF International.


Perishable Distributors of Iowa

Perishable Distributors of Iowa (PDI) is a subsidiary of Hy-Vee and distributor of perishable goods founded in 1982. The company is a Business Member of the Iowa Sustainable Business Forum with a warehouse in Ankeny, Iowa. As of September 2016, the company achieved Platinum Level
certification from the U.S. Zero Waste Business Alliance.


Sustainable Business in Iowa

As Kum & Go’s first manager of sustainability in 2010, I wrote my first book and began teaching CSR & Sustainability for the University of Iowa evening MBA program. In 2014, I launched and became the executive director of the Iowa Sustainable Business Forum and an independent consultant. With the help of an endless amount of Iowa professionals in various fields (see the Acknowledgements page), I just released my second book, Sustainable Business in Iowa: How Leading Companies Profit from Environmental and Social Responsibility. It gives step-by-step guidance on how industry leaders define, measure, and improve their own corporate sustainability programs. The book also highlights over 30 responsible Iowa businesses as case study examples.

The Kindle ebook is free and the paperback is heavily discounted for the first week of promotion, until March 2nd. Get your copy today and help move your company forward!



Adam Hammes is the executive director of the Iowa Sustainable Business Forum, a consultant, author, and motivational speaker. He specializes in helping businesses and sustainability professionals with environmental and social performance.

Check out Adam's new book on Amazon, Audible and Kindle: Sustainable Business in Iowa.

Like this content? Enter your email below for additional Chapter Cheat Sheets from Adam’s new book and more...