Emily Wain is the UK’s first (and only, at the time of writing) TRUE certification Advisor. In this interview, she’ll tell us more about TRUE certification and zero waste, and why she chose to become a qualified TRUE Advisor.

1. What is the TRUE certification? 

The TRUE certification is a framework for businesses to achieve zero waste and a circular economy at their sites. TRUE stands for Total Resource Use and Efficiency – these words summarise the certification well, as it focuses on improving upstream practices to design out waste, and champions the use of materials to their highest and best use, before disposal. Through resource efficiency, businesses will see cost savings through reduced procurement and waste disposal.

TRUE is run by the Green Business Certification Inc. based in the US, however, it’s used globally as a standout option towards zero waste.


2. What drove you to certify for TRUE?

Many businesses don’t know where to start when it comes to waste. Often the data available is poor, and there are so many different pieces to the puzzle. As a qualified TRUE Advisor, I have an in depth understanding of how to drive zero waste on the ground, knowledge to divert unnecessary waste from landfill, and ability to support businesses achieve certification and recognition for their zero waste efforts. I can guide businesses from not knowing where to start on waste, to becoming a zero waste certified site!


3. How is TRUE different from other zero waste certifications?

TRUE is the only zero waste certification that uses the internationally recognised definition for zero waste, from the Zero Waste International Alliance. It, therefore, focuses on designing out waste before it is even produced – you could say that the end goal of TRUE is to eliminate the need for bins altogether! Whereas many waste certifications focus on what to do with waste you have already produced. TRUE places a huge focus on engagement, training and leadership, to foster total participation – tackling waste involves many different teams, from your suppliers, procurement, facilities, employees, waste disposal contractors. To be successful, these teams must work together.


4. According to you how well are UK businesses managing waste?  

UK businesses are taking positive steps to better manage waste, such as implementing improved waste disposal infrastructure, and determining agreements with contractors to divert the waste from landfill. However, most businesses are still focusing on what to do with the waste once it has been generated, rather than eliminating it altogether. This needs to be the next step for UK businesses, which will involve working with your supply chain to make fundamental changes to your procurement and materials that you bring to your site.

Many businesses don’t realise that waste disposal is a major business overhead, as it’s just taken as a cost you have to pay, but making changes on resource efficiency and steps towards zero waste can massively reduce those costs.


5. What challenges are businesses facing in achieving zero waste operations?

Waste is a complex problem – the first hurdle is normally mapping out the current situation, to then establish where improvements can be made. But waste data is often of poor quality and difficult to attain. Many businesses have little understanding of how much or what waste they are generating, where it is going and what impact it is having on the environment.

What you can do with your waste, and how you can reduce it, is very dependent on regional variances in legal requirements, infrastructure and technology, making the role-out of national or global strategies even more challenging.


6. Will current waste regulations tighten further? How do you see these impacting UK businesses?  

The Waste Framework Directive from the EU has now been implemented by UK regulations in 2018, as well as the government publishing a strategy on waste and resources for England. This strategy aims to maximise the value of resource use, and minimise waste and its impact on the environment, through policies, actions and commitments. We can therefore expect more rigorous and thorough waste regulations in the near future. Some of the first to come into play are likely to be around plastic packaging, as the first of the strategic ambitions is ‘To work towards all plastic packaging placed on the market being recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025’.

These tightening regulations will likely have an impact on all businesses, with those that act now staying ahead of the curve.


7. Can any business qualify for TRUE certification? 

Short answer – yes! Any business that has a physical site or facility can certify with TRUE. Businesses that already have TRUE certified sites include many SMEs, such as small scale micro-breweries, to large global brands such as Tesla and Microsoft.


8. What support are you offering?

Every business is different, in terms of operations and waste produced. We work with each business to offer bespoke support to tackle their waste problems, be that on a local or global scale. We offer implementation support of the TRUE zero waste certification, or if certification is not for you, we will work with your business to develop a zero waste strategy, conduct sustainable packaging assessments, and develop packaging and procurement tools specifically designed to leverage zero waste principles. We also have an experienced team of waste auditors, that have carried out audits on various scales and in various global geographies, enabling you to analyse where the problem areas lie, and what opportunities are possible.


9. Who else is in your team? 

Zero waste is a collaborative effort, and we take that approach internally as well. Our team have a broad range of skills and backgrounds, enabling us to not only drive zero waste and circular economy practices, but offer innovative solutions to complex waste problems. A few key members of our team include:

Jessica Cresswell – Principal Consultant and Sustainable Products Services team lead. Jess specialises in environmental and waste auditing, lifecycle reviews, sustainable sourcing and circular economy strategies.

Cynthia Adu – Sustainability Consultant – Cynthia predominately focus on life cycle assessments (LCA), sustainable packaging to design out waste, and circular economy projects for our clients.

Anna Proestaki – Sustainability Analyst – Anna supports our clients to grow their business whilst ensuring that the goods and services they purchase, and produce are sustainable with minimal waste.

Myself – Emily Wain – Sustainability Consultant and Zero Waste lead –My current clients include a global tech giant where I’m leading the work to coordinate waste audits, implement circular economy principles and achieve the TRUE Zero Waste Certification across their global portfolio.


10. You are obviously very passionate about sustainability, where did this come from?

After graduating with a Chemistry BSc from the University of Southampton, I worked in marine conservation based in Fiji, surveying coral reef systems, protecting marine conservation areas, and educating the local community on waste management. I found the impact of both climate change and waste on marine life and the environment shocking, even in such a remote area of the world. This really hit home that no matter where you are, you’re responsible for the health of the global planet – I wanted to support businesses make a positive difference.

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