TRUE Certification: How to Become a Zero Waste Company

The Total Resource Use and Efficiency (TRUE) certification program is a process that makes it easier for companies to achieve zero waste.

Developed by U.S. Zero Waste Business Council in 2013, Green Business Certification Inc. (GCBI) took over the ongoing management and evolution of the TRUE certification program in 2016. GBCI also administers Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification efforts on behalf of the U.S. Green Building Council, as well as a number of other certification programs.

For a company or project to be TRUE certified it must achieve an average diversion rate of 90 percent or greater from landfill, incineration (waste-to-energy), and the environment at large.

Over the past three years, TRUE projects have diverted an estimated 1.5 million tons of waste from the landfill. At an average cost of $55.36/ton to landfill municipal solid waste (MSW) in the United States, this represents an estimated savings of more than $83,000,000.

What is TRUE Certification for Zero Waste?

The TRUE certification program helps companies to assess and maximize the solid waste diversion performance of their projects and company as a whole. The TRUE system makes it easy for companies to define, pursue, and achieve zero waste goals that are directly tied to the TRUE Rating System.

The goal of a TRUE-certified project is to help a company not only increase its overall waste diversion rates, but turn this waste into savings, and even additional income streams.

How TRUE Defines “Zero Waste”

According to their rating system, the GBCI defines “zero waste” in accordance with that set forth by the Zero Waste International Alliance:

Zero waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, to guide people in changing their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use.

From a practical point of view, for a project to receive TRUE certification status it must, among other things, achieve an average diversion rate of 90 percent or greater from landfill, incineration (waste-to-energy), and the environment at large for non-hazardous solid waste for the last twelve months.

To put it another way, 90 percent of solid waste materials must be reduced, reused, recycled, composted, or otherwise put back into productive use.

How to Get TRUE Certified for Your Zero Waste Leadership

The TRUE certification program has seven minimum program requirements that must be met for a project to earn and maintain its certification. They are:

  1. The company or project must already have a zero waste policy in place.
  2. The project has achieved an average 90 percent or greater overall diversion rate.
  3. The project meets all federal, state/provincial, and local solid waste and recycling laws and regulations, and complies with all air, water, and land discharge permits required for collection, handling, or processing of materials.
  4. The project has data documenting a base year of waste diversion data, and adjusted measurements since that year.
  5. The project does not exceed a 10 percent contamination level for any materials that leave the site.
  6. The company or project submits 12 months of waste diversion data to GBCI annually to keep the certification current.
  7. The company submits a case study of its zero waste initiatives.

Once these requirements are met, your project must attain at least 31 out of 81 credit points in the TRUE Rating System. The more points your project earns, the higher its certification level.

The four TRUE certification levels are:

  • Certified: 31-37 Points
  • Silver: 38-45 Points
  • Gold: 46-63 Points
  • Platinum: 64-81 Points

In addition, TRUE now offers precertification to recognize projects which have implemented the fundamental actions and policies needed to effectively pursue zero waste and have demonstrated a commitment to achieving TRUE certification. TRUE precertification is available to all projects regardless of the level of diversion performance that has been achieved. It is an optional, incremental pathway to TRUE certification that prioritizes the core actions essential to getting a successful start toward zero waste.

To learn more about the precertification process, review TRUE’s Precertification Guidance document. For a breakdown on how and where each point can be gained, as well as updated program information, download the most up-to-date version of the TRUE Rating System guide on the TRUE website.

To learn more about Rubicon’s work transforming the entire category of waste and recycling, be sure to download our inaugural Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) Report.

If you have any questions about how to gain TRUE certification for your project, you can reach out to Rubicon’s Sustainability team directly at sustainability@rubicon.com, or contact our sales team at (844) 479-1507.


Chris Batterson is a Key Account Manager for Construction & Project Solutions at Rubicon. To stay ahead of Rubicon’s announcements of new partnerships and collaborations around the world, be sure to follow us on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter, or contact us today.

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