21 June 2012
Landfill tax has quintupled to £64 per tonne in just 10 years. Here, WM offers an essential guide to beating the price hikes and boosting your environmental credentials along the way
Empty the bins
Tell your team to don rubber gloves and meet you by the skips and you could be in for a busy afternoon with HR. The consternation is unlikely to clear even when colleagues discover it was an innocent invite to sift through the site rubbish.
But looking through your skips is the foundation of a successful landfill reduction programme, according to experts. "It's a fantastic way to spot what you're chucking out," says Graham Cooper, who helped lead Agfa's journey to zero waste to landfill at its Leeds plant. "Our SHE specialist arranged for our waste carrier to empty the compactor skip out onto the yard and it was amazing what we found." Wood, card, plastic and sausage rolls... a roll-call of the site's costliest castaways. Once you've identified your top offenders, it's time to work out how you catch them.
Go and see
A spot of gemba works wonders for waste management. First stop is visiting sites, which have won critical acclaim for their waste management prowess. Taking a factory tour offers a chance to cherry pick best practice ideas, explains Cooper. "We'd made some great strides with reducing our waste but you end up with things like crisp packets and chewing gum that are very difficult to recycle. During a visit to Coca-Cola I asked how they dealt with such items to get to zero landfill. A guy said: 'forget about recycling, we send ours to energy reclaim'. So now we do the same."
Next stop on the green tour should be waste management companies. "You can visit the Environment Agency website and see who's accredited," says Gary Burgess, of FujiFilm, Broadstairs which has to dispose of hazardous chemical waste. "But are you prepared to take that risk? We go out and actively check. If something goes wrong then we want to be able to stand up in court and say we did everything in our power [to comply]."
And once you've found your firm, don't be tempted to think the job's done, adds Mick Straw of Hi-Tech Mouldings, winner of the Green Apple award for environmental rigour. "Keep in touch because things can change fast. It's tempting to set up your recycle bins and leave them out. Suddenly you can find they haven't been collected because the company has gone bust."
A place for everything and everything in its place
Yellow, brown, green, blue... even a rather garish magenta – recycling bins offer more colour combos than a Dulux catalogue. The hue helps you differentiate which waste goes where. Segregating materials like card, plastic, scrap metal and food at source means cash rewards.
Card bailers can net around £70 a skip and some grades of plastic up to £150 a tonne. Even unpaid recycling takes chunks out of your landfill bill. The catch is getting employees to put the rubbish in the right bin.
Yes we can
Rolled eyes and nostalgic protests about the way we've always done things – motivating employees to better waste management is not so different from a continuous improvement programme. "At first it was tough because the guys had done it that way for 20 years," recalls Burgess. "We ran a presentation on what was at risk. When you talk about £50,000 fines and the impact that has on bonuses, then pretty quickly you get people's attention."
But, as with CI, it's the ability to pull heartstrings as much as purse strings that will really catapult your green plans. Agfa's Cooper recalls a maintenance mechanic voluntaily stripping thousands of pounds worth of backing rings from plastic pipes consigned to landfill. "He said he just loves telling his grandkids he works for an environmentally-aware company."
Regular feedback meetings on progress towards landfill targets are a must. Through empowerment and inclusion you'll quickly turn doubters into die-hard supporters. Cooper says: "One of the ladies that empties the bins in the offices is really not happy now if she finds the wrong waste in there. It comes back to us and creates a cultural pressure to get on board."
Seek strategic partners
Tactical alliances are the turbocharger of landfill reduction plans. Speaking to your suppliers, for example, on reducing packaging for goods-in can remove waste out at source.
Simon Croasdell of waste management consultancy Eunomia explains: "We worked with one company receiving products from Asia: the products were overpackaged because material was so cheap. They worked with the supplier to
cut it back and have reduced landfill."
Manufacturers can establish voluntary agreements – best practice alliances with suppliers – adds Croasdell. The mandates commit all parties to common waste-cutting goals.
But amid all the grand strategy, don't lose sight of pragmatic partnerships on your own doorstep, concludes Burgess of FujiFilm. "The farmer across the way asked if he could take our unwanted pallets. We arranged for him to have his waste carrier licence and he collects them up. In return, the guys get as many cauliflowers and asparagus as they can carry. Everybody's happy."
Landfill bills: useful information
For more information on Landfill Tax and the legislation governing the disposal of factory waste, go to the following websites:
Eunomia Research and Consulting Ltd
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