The City Bin Co.’s innovative project, the ‘Zero Project’, aims to protect the environment and help businesses make significant cost savings by reducing their overall waste. This innovation educates customers and clients on the correct methods of waste disposal and offers expert guidance on how a business can improve its waste separation process. In doing this, not only does The City Bin Co. provide invaluable support to many businesses around Ireland with their waste management, but they also provide a clear solution to many UN Sustainable Development Goals, therefore contributing to a more sustainable future.
Dublin City University Business School
The ‘Zero Project’ was created by John Farrell, Client Innovation Manager in The City Bin Co., who used his extensive knowledge and experience in the field of innovation to take action and produce a zero waste to landfill project. The purpose was to inform and educate businesses on the multiple ways in which they can use waste management to their advantage such as significant savings on their annual waste costs.
The project uses the basis of the FORTH method of innovation to support and educate establishments all over Ireland in their management of waste. The method was developed by Dutch author, Gijs van Wulfen and is an acronym which stands for: Full Steam Ahead, Observe and Learn, Raise Ideas, Test Ideas and Homecoming (van Wulfen, 2011). John is one of 179 qualified FORTH innovation facilitators worldwide, and he decided to use this method to look at zero waste to landfill projects in Ireland.
Initially, they tested the ‘Zero Project’ with an Indian restaurant, Rasam, in Glasthule, Co. Dublin, Ireland. Through hands-on observation and subsequent education of portion control, the project proved to be a huge success for Rasam as they were able to reduce their weekly waste from 700kg to zero, whilst also saving 40% turnover. John mentioned that the project was able to educate on the way to save money on the ‘process around waste’. The ‘Zero Project’ has gone from strength to strength since, attracting more clients and reducing the overall environmental impact of waste.
Another example of its success is the application to a high-end building which consisted of a Starbucks coffee shop in central Dublin. The coffee shop had been approached with the idea that they could reduce their costs in disposing of their coffee grinds. Going forward, The City Bin Co. supported in setting up a compost heap to the rear of the building and used the landscape gardeners associated with the building to combine the grass cuttings with the coffee grinds, an appropriate action due to coffee grinds being pH neutral. This subsequently was then developed into compost which was distributed onto a wild flower garden within the landscape resulting in a hive of honeybees producing 162 jars of honey this year. A perfect example of a circular economy derived from waste that would have previously been discarded.
The City Bin Co. approaches businesses and uses modern-day processes to identify issues that are being experienced and in turn, determines how they can overcome them through managing their waste for not only the benefit of the business but also the environment. They strive to take specific approaches including educating, promoting ideas and providing solutions to tailor ways of reducing waste to the particular business that they are working for. John Farrell describes the innovation as “a way of showing people how not to waste their money on waste” and emphasizes that the project provides a clear understanding of current processes within businesses as well as the opportunity to significantly reduce the impact of waste on the current and future climate/environment.
In particular, the project supports in solving many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals including, climate action, responsible consumption and production, life on land, as well as the goal of sustainable cities and communities with a particular focus on responsible consumption and production. Through the ‘Zero Project’ innovation, The City Bin Co. isnot only showing their commitment to bringing excellence in customer service, understanding, and real value to their clients, but they are also playing their role in creating a better and more sustainable future for all.
It is clear from our interview with John Farrell, that the environmental impacts of landfill waste were a significant motivator behind the ‘Zero Project’ innovation. John mentioned in his interview with us that he felt people in Ireland did not truly understand the concept of sustainability and “being green”, and strongly believed that clients and customers needed to be educated on this. The City Bin Co. wanted to change customer perceptions of waste as a cost and divert it as “an opportunity to make our planet greener and less problematic”, whilst also saving money. John mentioned how although it was his method of innovation that initially created the idea behind the ‘Zero Project’, the whole company from top to bottom supported it to help people in managing their waste whilst simultaneously protecting the environment.
This has prompted the central question to be raised on why waste management is important and what it means for the future. It is common knowledge that the increasing amounts of waste in modern society is having a hugely detrimental impact on the environment. While some waste is biodegradable or recyclable, a vastly significant portion is not. A lot of this waste is ending up in landfills or in our oceans. This waste generates methane gas, causing numerous environmental problems which include air and land pollution, damage to our wildlife and the natural environment, and increased public health risk through the development of diseases.
As well as this, there is a highlighted issue of rapid growth in populations which has consequently increased global waste generation to an extreme amount. This has created a reactive effect as whilst larger populations are generating more waste, the impact placed on the environment is negatively affecting the health and well-being of the population. Data suggests that there is an estimation that the world generates approx. 7-10 billion tonnes of solid waste per year as the population of the world continues to grow. This estimation is set to rise in the coming years and undoubtedly, the impact placed on the environment, as a result, will reflect this. Included in the impacts are the depletion of ecosystems, pollution of local water sources such as rivers, soil erosion, climate change and public health to name a few. Without appropriate management, these impacts will only grow, highlighting the need for action sooner rather than later.
“Waste to landfill”, especially municipal waste generated by households and smaller businesses, are a cause of major concern to the environment. These wastes are collected and managed based on government-mandated guidelines and usually end up in landfills or in our oceans. Ireland has set a trend of increasing waste production over the years. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, Ireland produced approximately 2.9 million tons of municipal waste in 2018 which is 3.5% up from 2017.
Ireland also had the sixth-highest level of municipal waste generated per capita in the EU at 564kg in 2015 (Central Statistics Office, 2018). Due to the upward trend in municipal waste generation, companies must innovate in reducing, reusing, and recycling waste material for the impact on the environment to be greatly reduced.In support of minimising the impact of the waste industry on the environment, The City Bin Co. is continually innovating in order to reduce waste at the source, particularly through the ‘Zero Project’. This is based on the zero waste to landfill model where the company essentially acts as “waste consultants'' tutoring households and businesses alike, to minimize and reuse materials in such a way that the actual waste generated is greatly reduced.
Their philosophy of working “full circle” relative to their approach towards sustainability, has led to their clients saving money on waste and in general. As well as this, simple changes like reducing portion sizes and proper disposal techniques have helped Rasam, one of their clients, to reduce a weekly amount of general waste amounting to 15 tons of waste reduction a year and about €75,000 (at €5 per Kg avg.) in savings.
John added that changes like this are ‘going to have a profound effect going forward specifically with carbon tax’. He said that ‘it was mentioned recently in the (Irish) budget that there is going to be a carbon tax on diesel and petrol and that while this is a way of putting money towards some really exciting projects, surely a better way of taking action it is to divert any opportunity for waste away from a bin, away from cost and to make our planet greener’. This is suggestive of the idea that although governments are becoming increasingly aware of the need to maintain certain elements of sustainability through taxes, for example, innovations such as the ‘Zero Project’ could possibly be a more useful way for companies to both increase their sense of sustainability without the issue of costs.
In terms of the overall long-term impact of the business, along with the growth of the company, it is evident that clients are becoming increasingly poised towards sustainability and the obvious savings it encompasses. This is also supported in a recent study by Forbes which suggests that people in general (93%) are aware of the impact on the environment and climate change. A large portion of them (77%) want to know more about a sustainable lifestyle, whilst half of the data set have already started practicing sustainable living, believing that it makes them more akin to “the bigger picture”. People and their inherent “want” to be a part of the bigger picture has promoted them to look for sustainable ways of living. The same can be said about businesses who want to “do more” for the environment. This sense of participation has become one of the trademark advertisements for the ‘Zero Project’.
Even though Ireland is one of the lowest in the list for adapting sustainable practices according to sustainability reports by the UNEP (United Nations Environment Programme), people are acknowledging the obvious benefits presented and ultimately promoting sustainability in the long term (UN Environment Programme, n.d) and enhancing the need for innovations like the ‘Zero Project’.
The ‘Zero Project’ as mentioned by John Farrell, has provided numerous benefits to both The City Bin Co. and the companies it works with. Overall, The City Bin Co. has been presented with many awards due to their work within the waste management industry such as being named one of the “Deloitte Best Managed Companies (Ireland) four years in a row as well as twice representing Ireland in the European Business Awards in the area of ‘Customer Focus’” (The City Bin Co., n.d.). This has greatly helped to boost the company’s turnover and the innovation itself has provided much needed support to many businesses willing to take action in regards to their waste.
The ‘Zero Project’ states its aims to support Irish businesses in saving up to €2m each year which equates to 40% on their annual waste bills. This has subsequently gained a lot of traction among multimillion-euro businesses such as, Boyle Sports, SuperValu, Bank of Ireland etc., who are also customers of The City Bin Co. The project has highlighted the stance of The City Bin Co. within the waste management industry as it has opened them to a new market tailored specifically to the education of Irish businesses and how they can support in the mitigation of environmental impact.
A recent report by the Sustainable Futures Division of KPMG Ireland, noted that sustainable businesses are gaining a lot of traction at the moment. Companies have moved from taking the climate situation as a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) footnote to an actual “boardroom challenge” facing businesses now. KPMG believes that businesses who are “long term oriented”, see climate change as a “new customer-led revenue growth and cost reduction opportunity”. Having a strong Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) regulation, tends to be more successful in the long run as compared to companies with short term goals. Their analysis also suggests that long-term oriented companies showed 130% revenue growth between the period of 2003-2017 (KPMG, 2020).
In creating a new and successful stream of innovation which contributes to the overall success of the company, The City Bin Co. has introduced new opportunities and the potential to approach new businesses with the aim of encouraging continuous actions towards the issue of sustainability for the future. Not only that, but the project has provided additional revenue streams which has added to their overall success and from an external perspective, can be used as an influential reason for other businesses to take on similar approaches.
John mentioned that the success of the business is reflected in the positive opinions of independent customers who avail of the services. He considers that The City Bin Co. ‘is to the waste industry, what Amazon, Diageo, Siemens, Google etc. are to their industries and are right up there’ in terms of their stance. He added that an initiative had even been brought in last year during the Covid-19 lockdown to begin to educate younger people in waste management called CBJ’s (City Bin Juniors). This promoted their efforts to introduce themselves into communities whilst also showing how younger people and kids in particular can be involved in recycling their waste for the benefit of future generations.
At present, with the impact of population growth, waste management is becoming increasingly more critical to building sustainable, healthy and inclusive cities and communities. The City Bin Co., as a professional and experienced company, provides services and innovations which have a positive impact on the whole society and the environment. As mentioned by current customers of the project, the work of The City Bin Co. has raised people's awareness of environmental protection, helped people to realise how much money and food they waste, and concretized the benefits of circular economy to people, which also prevents the excessive use of the earth's capacity, and optimises the industrial structure.The implementation of the ‘Zero Project’ guides businesses to the repeated use of resources, such as the opportunity to turn food waste into compost. Therefore, whilst aiming to minimise their food waste, they can also feel comfortable in knowing that it can be used in other ways without needing to go to a landfill. Instead, it can be used as new raw material through the material production cycle. Thousands of enterprises have reduced waste and turned waste into treasure under their work. It directly helps these enterprises to improve the recycling utilisation rate of resources and save costs, increase the operating income, create more commercial value, and promote the high-quality development of the social economy.
At the same time, the innovation of The City Bin Co. has played a huge role in promoting the development of environmental protection. The ‘Zero Project’ pioneered by The City Bin Co. helps enterprises to classify and recycle waste more rationally, acknowledging the benefit of zero waste to landfill and effectively reducing carbon emission. In today's global warming, the earth's climate is changing rapidly, controlling the amount of waste in landfills and incineration is of great significance to the future environment of human beings. As a sustainable development company, The City Bin Co. has successfully reduced its dependence on landfills and its impact on the biosphere. In addition, their continuous efforts for more than 20 years have made the whole of society pay attention to their value, made more people realise the benefits of reducing waste, helped people to gradually raise their awareness of environmental protection, and encouraged younger people acknowledge the importance of environmental protection instead of repeating our past mistakes.
John Farrell, Client Innovation Manager at The City Bin Co.
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Co. Dublin & Co. Galway, Leinster and Connacht, IE
Business Website: https://www.citybin.com
Year Founded: 1997
Number of Employees: 51 to 200
The City Bin Co. is a waste management company founded in Co. Galway in 1997 by Glenn Ward and current Chief Executive Officer, Gene Browne. The purpose of the business originally revolved around challenging the issue of waste management in Co. Galway at the time. In the late 1990s, the removal of waste was the responsibility of the Council only, without any external support. In order to tackle this, the original founders put a plan in place to penetrate the market on a small scale which has subsequently developed into the nationally successful business that it is today. The City Bin Co. later entered the Dublin market in 2006 and continued to expand within multiple waste management streams resulting in the ongoing provision of quality services to many homes and businesses around Ireland today.