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Zero tolerance on waste

June 07, 2006|By Dave Brooks

A local nonprofit group is zeroing in on local businesses in hopes of reducing waste to zero.

The Costa Mesa-based Earth Resource Foundation is hosting its Zero Waste Conference at the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim Thursday, bringing in entrepreneurs who have made it their business to follow the foundation's mantra on sustainability: refuse, reuse, reduce and recycle.

That means refusing to use harmful products, reusing raw materials instead of throwing them away, reducing waste through the best practices and recycling when necessary.

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The goal, said foundation staffer Lindsey Payne, is to greatly reduce the amount of waste a company creates for the environment, and even save a little money.

"It's about turning your waste stream into a profitable resource," she said. "It's about turning it back into something you can use. In a perfect world, you would not have waste."

Thursday's conference will highlight Orange County firms like Ricoh, a Santa Ana electronics company that has effectively ceased sending waste to landfills, mostly by recycling and reusing materials for production.

While other communities in the state have made regulatory changes to help reduce waste, Orange County has been relatively slow at cutting back on the amount of trash sent to landfills, foundation executive director Stephanie Barger said.

Communities in San Diego, San Francisco and Santa Cruz counties have adopted zero-waste policies, and Los Angeles County has opted to reduce its waste by 75%. Orange County has been slow, Barger said, because the recycling and infrastructure system in the county is less developed and local residents aren't as well educated about the importance of reducing waste.

One practical change that could be made immediately is the way restaurants and hotels discard food waste. Instead of throwing food waste in the garbage, Barger suggests conversion to composting material. Grocery chains like Vons have found success converting produce waste into compost and selling it as soil material.

"In a lot of ways, we're throwing away stuff that can be reused, even reused to make or save money for your business," she said.

Speaking at the conference will be coffee pioneer Martin Diedrich, creator and former-owner of the Diedrich Coffee chain and owner of environmentally sensitive café Kean, in Newport Beach.

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