Zero Waste Project Certification

Certify your company’s waste diversion project to help strengthen your corporate message, investment profile, and ESG ratings

What is Zero Waste Project Certification?

Companies looking to lower their environmental impact and carbon footprint are turning to sustainability initiatives such as Zero Waste to significantly improve their environmental stewardship, corporate responsibility profile, and ESG rankings. To help you communicate how you reduce, recycle and re-use your waste, the SCS Zero Waste Project Standard provides a basis for certification of municipal solid waste diversion from landfills for a time-bound, place-bound project.

Certification can be used to communicate your company’s efforts to reduce waste on your projects. The standard is tailored for companies that do work at facilities or offices but are not owners or managers of the spaces in which the project takes place. For example, your company manages construction, landscaping, interior design, cleanup, or remodeling projects on behalf of clients. It is also tailored for companies that contract such projects at their facilities but want to keep waste reduction efforts achieved in these projects separate from the day-to-day waste streams at those facilities.

Projects demonstrating at least 75% waste diversion can be recognized under this SCS standard.

Why Choose SCS?

SCS certifies the diversion achieved for each project starting at 75% diversion. In this way, the standard allows for a company to certify a snapshot of activities that take place at a facility when it is not feasible or practical to certify the entire range of activities at a facility. Compost, recycling, reuse, reclamation, and e-waste are counted towards overall waste diversion. Further, diversion of hazardous waste can count towards overall diversion, on a case-by-case basis. Waste-to-energy for up to 25% of the total stream is counted towards diversion without further review. Waste-to-energy up to 50% of total waste is also allowed, on a case-by-case basis.

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  • FAQs
  • Benefits
  • Process
  • Program Documents

Q: What is the purpose of Zero Waste?

A: Zero Waste is a corporate/business/lifestyle philosophy that seeks to reduce the amount of waste generated by businesses, governments, and individuals by seeking methods of reusing existing materials, ensuring proper stewardship of materials designated as wastes, and preventing materials from entering the waste stream in the first place.

Q: How is the SCS Zero Waste Project Certification program different from others, such as GBCI TRUE certification or NSF Landfill Free certification?

A: GBCI TRUE certification or NSF Landfill Free certifications do not offer project-level standards. Both standards are facility-level standards. The SCS equivalent is the SCS Zero Waste Facility Standard.

Q: What types of projects can be certified?

A: Any projects whose management or operations are distinct from that of the facility in which the project takes place can be considered for certification. Projects include, but are not limited to, construction projects, landscaping projects, interior design renovation projects, clean-up projects, and remodeling projects.

Q: Do my projects have to achieve 99% waste diversion in order to be certified by SCS?

A: No; companies need to achieve a minimum of 75% waste diversion for the duration of the project to be considered for certification.

Q: Does my Project require an on-site audit to be certified Zero Waste?

A: Yes; as each project is unique and cannot be supported with the existence of on-site infrastructure; every project would require an on-site component for the audit.

Q: What does a Zero Waste Project certificate include?

A: The SCS Zero Waste certificate includes a transparent overview of the company’s zero waste achievements, including the following required information:

  • The percent of waste diversion the project has achieved. Percentage is calculated as: (diverted waste - residuals) / (total waste)
  • Each method of diversion used (e.g., recycling, composting, waste-to-energy) as well as the percentage diverted using each method
  • Percent of waste sent to landfill
  • The duration of the project (Ex: June to August 2020)
  • The location of the project
  • Project parameters and notable project exclusions

Q: How is waste diversion calculated?

A: A project’s diversion percentage is a calculation of the amount of materials defined as wastes disposed of in an environmentally beneficial manner using the following methods: recycling, composting, re-use, reclamation, e-waste, waste-to-energy. The diversion percentage is calculated using the following formula: (diverted waste – residuals) / (total waste).

Q: Do you have a list of Zero Waste definitions?

A: Yes, below is a list of the most common types of waste and measurements that are being assessed as part of a Zero Waste audit and certification:

  • Ash: Includes ‘fly ash’ which is the airborne ash collected after incineration and ‘incinerator bottom ash’ which is the heavy ash found in the bottom of an incinerator post burning.
  • Composted Material: Materials organic in nature that are sent to a compost facility where they are allowed to decay to form a relatively homogeneous and stable humus-like substance [ISO 14021].
  • Construction and Demolition Debris: Materials resulting from the construction and demolition (C&D) of buildings and other structures, including materials such as metals, wood, gypsum, asphalt shingles, roofing, concrete, rocks, rubble, soil, paper, plastics, and glass, but excluding putrescible wastes (SWANA Technical Policies, Attachment B).
  • Diverted Waste: Internally processed waste and/or non-landfill-bound waste sent for external processing.
  • E-Waste: Consumer and business electronic equipment that is near or at the end of its useful life (such as computers, televisions, and cell phones)
  • Hazardous Waste: A waste listed by EPA; or a waste that is characterized by being ignitable, reactive, corrosive, or extraction procedure toxic (USDA Agricultural Resource Service).
  • Re-claimed Material: Material that would have otherwise been disposed of as waste or used for energy recovery, but has instead been collected and recovered [reclaimed] as a “NEW” material input, in lieu of new primary material, for a recycling or a manufacturing process [ISO 14021].
  • Recycled material: Material sent to a recycling facility to be shredded, pelletized, or chemically altered to be remade into objects or substances for commercial use. Common materials include glass, metal, cardboard, and plastics, but may apply to other materials, as well.
  • Re-used Material: Material that would have otherwise been disposed of as waste or used for energy recovery, but has instead been collected at the end of the process to be used again for its initial purpose.
  • Residuals: Waste material that remains after processing has taken place. Residuals percentages are specific to the type of recycling facility as well as to the state or city (depending on available data). Operator is responsible for obtaining these percentages in an affidavit from the facilities used for processing. Average Residual Percentages may be used if affidavits from facilities cannot be provided. See Average Residual Percentages above.
  • Sold Waste Material: Material defined as waste within the bounds of the project, which is sold as input into another Manufacturer’s Process towards production of a good. Donated Material would also count under this category.
  • Waste-to-Energy (WTE): Energy recovered from material that would have been disposed of as waste but instead has been collected through managed processes [ISO 14021]. This method includes incineration, pyrolysis, and anaerobic digestion where the main purpose and output of the process is to create energy.

Q: What other Zero Waste certifications does SCS offer?

A: SCS offers a Zero Waste Facility Certification as well as a Zero Waste Event Certification.

Q: What is the difference between the Zero Waste Facility Standard and the Zero Waste Project Standard?

A: The SCS Zero Waste Facility Standard covers all waste generated at a facility which is then prevented, diverted, or sent to landfills over the course of a 12-month period. All waste generated at the facility must be taken into account. A facility must demonstrate at least 50% diversion to participate in the standard. The Zero Waste Project Standard covers waste generated at a facility only over the duration of the project (which could be less or more than ten years). A project must demonstrate 75% diversion in order to participate in the standard. Only waste generated by the project is taken into consideration. A facility-level standard requires yearly re-certification to re-validate the diversion claim at the facility. The project-level standard is meant for activities that generally take place once and would not need to be recertified.

Q: What other environmental certifications does SCS offer?

A: Zero Waste certification is just one of many certifications a company can achieve as part of its ongoing sustainability journey. SCS offers more than 100 certification and validation programs for a wide variety of products and processes to help companies as they grow towards being more sustainable and environmentally friendly. Such measures ultimately help companies achieve better ESG ratings from the many corporate rating companies, which in turn positions the company well from an ESG investment and institutional investor perspective. For a complete listing of all SCS certifications and validations, visit:


  • Participation: Other standards do not allow for certification of projects. The SCS Zero Waste Project Standard allows for more companies to participate in certification and communicate their commitment to waste reduction through third-party certification.
  • Brand Strengthening: Certification provides the opportunity for companies to build upon their ESG brand equity and reputation by showcasing their commitment to diverting waste from landfills.
  • Transparency: SCS certificates show how diversion rates are achieved. This helps you clearly define and communicate your goals and achievements and avoid assertions of greenwashing.
  • Hazardous Waste Allowance: Diversion of hazardous waste from landfills can count towards diversion, on a case-by-case basis (following analysis).
  • Waste to Energy: The standard allows for the use of waste-to-energy as a diversion method for up to 25% of total diversion, without further review;  it allows for more than 25% of total diversion, on a case-by-case basis following review.
  • Residual Rates: The standard allows for default industry/regional residual rates to be applied when calculating diversion rates if data from haulers/third-party waste collection services is not available. Other standards require hauler affidavits.

The steps to Zero Waste Project Certification include the following:

  1. Application Process and Onboarding

    Company submits a Zero Waste application to SCS. SCS scopes the company to check that facilities meet the minimum requirements for participation in the standard. If yes, then a work order is sent. Once signed, next steps are discussed, and audit dates are set.

  2. Document Review Audit

    Auditor reviews management program documents, waste diversion calculator, internal audit, traceability documents (supporting evidence such as invoices, bills of lading, affidavits), and evidence of trainings.

  3. On-Site Audit

    Auditor interviews staff implementing zero waste and checks waste management infrastructure. Findings are disclosed to Company.

  4. Report Issuance and Corrective Action

    Auditor submits report to SCS for technical review. SCS submits final report documents to Company. Company submits action plan and evidence to close any issued non-conformities.

  5. Certification

    Once non-conformities are closed and technical review is complete, SCS will issue a certificate thereby certifying the diversion percentage achievement of the project. SCS can also provide client marketing support.

File Name Document
Certification Standard for Zero Waste Project English

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Eddie Gómez