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Olga Kachook

Yale University, MS
EREF Scholar 2015

Integrating Zero Waste and Extended Producer Responsibility Practices into Corporate Waste

Project Description:
Olga will focus on the intersection between consumer product waste and the environment; namely, why certain corporations have willingly taken on advanced strategies for managing their product’s life cycles, how other businesses can adopt similar strategies, and what positive effects this may have on a corporation’s bottom line.

Zero waste is a business principle that goes beyond traditional attitudes towards materials management, such as recycling or composting materials. Instead, it takes a whole system approach to the immense flow of resources and materials through a product’s life cycle. Zero waste strategies seek to first minimize waste and reduce consumption and then maximize recycling and other processes. The end goal is to ensure that products are designed in order to be eventually reused, repaired, or recycled back into nature or the marketplace. A concept closely integrated with zero waste is extended producer responsibility (EPR). As a strategy, EPR integrates the environmental costs associated with goods throughout their life cycle into the initial market price of products, and involves take-back programs that create an end-of-life destination for products. Olga plans to research what distinguishes companies that have embraced and advanced EPR from those that have struggled to create end-of-life solutions for their products and processes. She would like to identify what accounts for the differences in companies’ attitudes towards product life cycles. Currently, research has shown that a combination of government regulations and policies, cultural and societal norms, consumer demand, and company culture and values are having the strongest influence on the development of EPR within corporations. Ultimately, Olga plans to investigate what it would take for EPR to be adopted more broadly, especially by companies based in the United States.

Olga graduated from the University of Washington with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and a minor in Environmental Studies. After graduating, she spent three years working with a Seattle-based environmental consulting firm, primarily implementing resource conservation programs for the public sector. This involved researching and authoring reports on sustainability planning, sustainable consumption, and regional green business programs. Olga also participated in the design and implementation of several cutting-edge pilot programs that tested the effectiveness of community-based social marketing strategies on increasing recycling and composting at multifamily properties. In addition to consulting, Olga also led an internal marketing and communications team of five people, including deliverables, day-to-day organization, and planning of marketing initiatives.

Olga is pursuing a Master’s of Environmental Management (MEM) at Yale University’s School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, where she will focus on whole-system sustainability strategies for businesses. She enjoys hiking, photography, and travel, most recently visiting her native Belarus.