6 Valuable Strategies To Minimize Your Industrial Waste
Each year, companies generate and dispose of billions of tons of industrial waste. With costs of disposal increasing, greater regulatory pressures to responsibly manage waste, and changing consumer preferences, manufacturing firms are looking for new and sustainable ways to minimize their waste and maximize savings.
Waste minimization is defined by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) as ‘strategies that are aiming to prevent waste through upstream interventions.
On the production side, these strategies focus on optimizing resource and energy use and lowering toxicity levels during manufacture. Some improve resource efficiency in or even before the manufacturing process; for example, product design, cleaner production, reuse of scrap material, improved quality control, waste exchanges. Others focus on the consumption side, with strategies to build awareness and prompt environmentally conscious consumption patterns and consumer responsibility to reduce the overall levels of waste generation.’ *
While definitions vary among regulatory bodies, the emphasis is on the importance of not creating waste to begin with, rather than worrying about the best way to dispose of already generated waste.
Minimizing waste brings benefits including reduced expenditure, less hazardous working conditions that make for happier employees, as well as a cleaner environment.
Here are six waste minimization strategies to think about for your manufacturing facility:
1. Create a team that holds responsibility
Consider bringing representatives from different areas of operations to form a ‘green team’. The team will be responsible for communicating ideas to staff, encouraging adoption, as well as measuring and reporting progress to management. This brings accountability, unifies efforts and makes them more likely to succeed.
2. Reduce packaging material
When you reduce packaging, you are making the largest impact on the overall volume of waste. Redesigning your product packaging to minimize the amount of material used can make a big difference. Think about bringing as much recyclable and biodegradable material as you can into your design.
3. Use ‘green chemistry’ **
This is an effective way to reduce the toxicity of your process. Design chemical products and processes so they generate as little hazardous waste as possible. This reduces energy consumption and decreases the likelihood of releasing toxic material into the environment. A significant component of many manufacturing waste streams is wastewater and industrial sludge. Think of ways to keep this to a minimum. Some sludge is high in organic content and can be reused by others, so consider partnerships.
4. Improve your ‘housekeeping’
Use materials and processes efficiently. For example, make sure to keep bulk containers closed. This helps keep your facility compliant as well as reduces losses that arise from spills and evaporation. Take steps to avoid the mixing of hazardous and non-hazardous waste. This cuts down on associated storage and treatment costs. Look into various other ways in which you can streamline your operations with the help of your ‘green team’.
5. Buy in bulk and maintain inventories
Where possible, buy your raw materials in bulk. Not only will this get you better pricing because of volume, but it will also reduce the packaging materials you need to dispose of. Keep an up-to-date inventory and label appropriately. Ensure perishable materials are used before they reach their expiration date.
6. Check your processes
Undertake an exercise to map out waste generation points in your manufacturing cycle. This will give you visibility on areas where you can reduce or eliminate waste. In some cases, a simple setting adjustment on a piece of equipment can result in significant reductions in waste volumes.