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Health, Science & Tech

Zero Waste Pittsburgh Expands Certification Efforts

Zero Waste Pittsburgh is introducing ZIP certification for businesses and institutions that set and achieve greater waste reduction goals.

Zero Waste Pittsburgh is a project of the Pennsylvania Resources Council, and offers waste program evaluations, studies, technical assistance, and employee training. Since 2007, Zero Waste Pittsburgh has certified events such as the Annual Strawberry Festival, the Three Rivers Arts Festival, and the 2011 Blues Festival.

ZIP certification provides a means of documenting reducing the environmental impact of waste by composting organic materials, purchasing recycled goods, and training employees to reduce their volume of trash.

The certification costs a company between $125 and $275, depending on the size of the business or organization. Zero Waste Pittsburgh Environmental Program Manager Kyle Winkler says there are many benefits to a business spending money to become ZIP-certified.

"The big one … is that they are doing something that the community at large may or may not know was going on," Winkler said. "There's a benefit in terms of marketing this effort to let people know, 'Hey, we're doing it and we're doing it well and we're being recognized by a third party.'"

An organization receives ZIP certification at the platinum, gold, silver or bronze level based on the number of waste reduction actions it has pursued.

Five organizations currently have ZIP certification, including Phipps Conservatory and Botanical Gardens, which is the only one to receive platinum status.

Phipps Executive Director Richard Piacentini says operating a comprehensive waste reduction program is central to the conservatory's mission.

"ZIP certification has allowed Phipps to convey our robust waste diversion program in a way that might otherwise not be well-documented to the public," Piacentini said.