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TRUE | Zero Waste Certification System

Updated: May 17, 2023

Recently, 2 staff members of IEN were certified as TRUE Advisors by Green Building Certification Inc. The TRUE Zero Waste Certification demonstrates an organization or building's commitment to reducing its waste generation in accordance with the Zero Waste International Alliance ( definitions. TRUE Advisors understand the requirements of the rating system, help projects achieve TRUE certification and are committed to advancing zero waste values and policies.

In this article, we will explore what it means to be a TRUE-certified building or organization.


Zero waste according to the Zero Waste International Alliance ( definition:

“Zero Waste: The conservation of all resources by means of responsible production, consumption, reuse, and recovery of products, packaging, and materials without burning and with no discharges to land, water, or air that threaten the environment or human health.”

To be eligible for certification under the TRUE zero waste certification program, a project or organization should reduce its waste in accordance with the ZWIA definitions by at least 90% with a goal to achieve zero waste.

This may sound like a challenging goal to some Malaysians but the urgency to work towards this goal cannot be understated, here's why...


According to the Solid Waste Management and Public Cleansing Corporation (SWCorp), in the year 2022, an estimation of more than 38,000 tonnes of municipal solid waste and 17,000 tonnes of food waste were generated every day which is equivalent to 1.16kg per person per day (higher than the global average of 0.74kg per person per day) and 0.52kg/person per day respectively. The waste typically ends up at a landfill, requiring more land usage and expansions. The limited land and high cost of landfill facilitation operations have intensified environmental and financial concerns amounting to at least RM2 billion per year just to manage the solid waste generated in Malaysia! And we haven't begun to talk about the environmental and financial impact of illegal landfills.

As a developing upper-middle income country, it is important for Malaysia to tackle its waste issues as our population and economy grow and not after the fact, Worldbank reports that 34% of the total global waste is generated by high-income countries, which is unsurprising when we look at consumption patterns in these countries, and the lack of efficient waste management solutions.

Malaysia has set a goal of achieving a 40% waste recycling rate by 2025, a goal that is proving to be challenging without cooperation from the people and businesses, it is therefore crucial for us to start adopting environmentally responsible habits to reduce waste generation and utilizing waste as input materials in innovative ways.

Remember that zero waste is a journey;

every small step you take can make a huge difference

in your local community, country and the world.

Source: TRUE certification for zero waste


With the exorbitant amount of money spent on waste handling by municipalities annually, it is no surprise that there are similar cost impacts to organisations that generate a significant amount of waste. Just to mention a few, companies like Kilroy Realty Corporation – 350 Mission Street diverted 610,000 pounds of waste, which led to a savings of $78,000 from diversion discounts in one year while Adobe Inc. for all its 3 sites, manage to divert 788,000 pounds of waste, equaling to over $50,000 saved from right sizing and diversion discounts in one year for each site.


One of the pre-requisites to TRUE certification for zero waste is that the project has achieved an average 90% or greater overall diversion from landfill, incineration (WTE), and the environment for solid, non-hazardous wastes where the diverted materials are reduced, reused, recycled, composted and/or recovered for productive use in nature or the economy.

This may sound impossible until we get down to the details and see what we can do to improve our waste management efforts, using the TRUE Zero Waste Certification program as a guiding tool.

Source: TRUE certification for zero waste

1. REDESIGN: RIGHT SIZING - ensure container volume, amount, and the number of pick-ups for each material type is accurate and appropriate to the generation of materials. Oftentimes, we dump our waste into the nearest mixed waste bin when a recycling bin is either full or not in sight. When buildings or organizations accurately design their containers, the project saves money whilst making recycling more convenient and effective.

Source: TRUE certification for zero waste

Zero-Waste Case Studies: At Yellowstone General Stores Warehouse., a TRUE Certified – Platinum rating project, they manage to remove more than 25 trash bins from throughout the warehouse through initiatives of conducting waste audits and thus redesigning waste receptacles with appropriate signage, size and variation.

2. REDUCE WASTE AT ITS SOURCE – identify opportunities to design out wasting & implement waste reduction strategies for both upstream and downstream.

Source: TRUE certification for zero waste

Zero-Waste Case Studies:

1. At Sierra Nevada Brewing Co., a TRUE Certified – Platinum rating project, employees are given an insulated Klean Kanteen and a ChicoBag(r) on their first day to help them get into the habit of reuse and thus reducing the need for single-use items and disposable packaging.

2. At a local MNC in Sunway that IEN is working on, food waste and packaging for food waste are reduced by implementing a lunchtime ordering system whereby lunch is delivered daily according to individual preferences (using a food apps system) and packed individually using biodegradable packaging. This significantly reduced waste that was previously produced by buffet-style meals served in large plastic containers.

3. REUSE – extending the useful life or embodied value of a product or material. Construction projects or newly renovated fit-out projects have an opportunity to benefit from this due to the extensive availability of waste materials that can be reused in innovative ways to extend the useful life of the product. A simple example of this would be the use of concrete waste in landscape design and timber waste for interior design features.

Source: TRUE certification for zero waste

Zero-Waste Case Studies:

1. At Etsy’s Headquarters (USA), a TRUE Certified – Platinum rating project, materials were repurposed or donated to local artists to make art pieces during the recent renovation of their headquarters. The artists were commissioned by Etsy, thereby closing the loop.

4. RECYCLE - ensure the highest and best use of materials is explored prior to recycling.

Source: TRUE certification for zero waste

Zero-Waste Case Studies: At Recreational Equipment, Inc. (REI) Bedford DC – a TRUE certified, Gold rating project, through a comprehensive pallet management program, the team repairs the pallets in-house, making sure it is unsalvageable before sending them to mulch, animal bedding and alternative fuel usage.

5. RE-EARTH: COMPOST - divert organic matter away from landfill and incineration (WTE) and towards the creation of valuable, nutrient-rich soil.

Source: TRUE certification for zero waste

Zero-Waste Case Studies:

1. Used coffee grounds make great fertilizer. At 350 Mission Street, a TRUE Certified – Gold rating project, they set up a coffee ground pick-up station for employees and/or customers to use for their home plants or gardens. Every day used coffee grounds are set aside to go to this station before being disposed of in the compost stream.

2. IEN's office project in Petaling Jaya introduced compost machines on-site to reduce landscape waste that would otherwise end up in the landfill. The fertilizer is used in proportion with other organic fertilizers to support the project's extensive roof garden.

Using the steps above to develop and implement an effective waste management plan will yield surprising results! Achieving a 90% waste diversion rate where diversion includes reduction, reuse, composting, AND recycling is completely doable when there is a will and policy in place to achieve it.


1. Poor awareness and lack of civic-mindedness. Education and awareness initiatives on a national scale can help promote an understanding of the significance of proper garbage disposal – the importance of waste segregation and cultivate the practice of valuing waste as a resource and exploring its highest & best use prior to recycling.

All in all, what matters the most is the attitude change among Malaysians who have a habit of using single-use items and disposable packaging, which contributes to the waste problem.

2. Lack of policy and enforcement. While the country has policies and regulations in place, there is often a lack of enforcement, which allows illegal dumping and littering to continue. Besides, lax enforcement as solid wastes are being collected even though it is not segregated as required by law as well as widespread illegal dumping sites by waste disposal contractors and/or recycling companies just to escape paying the required landfill gate fees.

3. Inadequate infrastructure and expertise in terms of waste management. Many areas in Malaysia lack proper waste collection and disposal facilities, leading to illegal dumping, littering, and open burning of waste, which harms the environment and public health. These illegal dumpsites often become ideal breeding grounds for mosquitoes and rodents which can spread diseases. Also, improper disposal of waste clogged drains and other waterways which then causes flash floods and contaminating raw water sources from rivers.


Need help in minimizing waste and utilizing resources effectively? We are more than happy to help evaluate your project/building against the TRUE Waste guideline and guide your team in developing a roadmap to achieve up to 90% waste diversion in overall operations and management and help you close the loop in your waste journey!

This isn’t about being trendy. This is about doing the right thing for the generations to come. It is doable. And let us help you.

You may reach out to us via email at


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