Practical Environmental Management Systems
UK Government Environment and Energy Helpline 0800 585 794
Environmental management systems are rapidly becoming an important issue in the plastics industry. Many companies are under pressure from their customers to develop an Environmental Management System (EMS), whilst others recognise the environmental impacts of their business and want to minimise these. Perhaps the most important reason is that companies who have implemented an EMS have often improved their environmental performance and also achieved substantial cost savings. An EMS with a strong emphasis on minimising waste and continual improvement will help your company to reduce costs.
This series of Worksheets explains how to implement an EMS that is focused on waste minimisation to reduce costs and environmental factors while still effectively complying with legislation and customer requirements.
A good EMS is a practical management tool to help you:
- Identify, assess and manage the environmental consequences of operations.
- Reduce waste and operating costs.
- Gain a competitive advantage.
- Establish and show a system for continual environmental improvement.
- Demonstrate compliance with legal obligations.
- Improve your public image.
Waste minimisation and EMS
An EMS focused on waste minimisation will produce cost savings from reduced waste, scrap, rework and energy use. A recent survey found that the average first-pass rejection rate in the polymer processing industry was over 10%. This increases all operating costs as well as reducing capacity (i.e. the lost opportunity to produce saleable product). As well as the obvious cost of waste disposal, the true cost of waste also includes labour, regrinding costs, raw material value and energy consumption.
Many businesses spend around 4% of their turnover generating waste. The cost of waste is not just the cost of disposal, but includes wasted raw materials, water, consumables and labour. The true cost of waste can be between five and 20 times the disposal cost , and for an average company, is around ten times the cost of disposal.
The Waste Hierarchy
All waste costs money. Eliminating or reducing waste not only benefits the bottom line but also has environmental benefits by reducing the use and waste of resources. The ‘waste hierarchy’ helps to identify the most cost-effective opportunities to reduce waste and save money. Focusing on the top levels of the waste hierarchy (i.e. eliminate, reduce and re-use) within the framework of their EMS optimises the benefits.
An effective EMS will include:
- An assessment of the environmental aspects and impacts of the company’s activities, products, processes and services.
- An environmental policy.
- An environmental improvement programme with objectives and targets.
- Identified roles and responsibilities for all employees.
- A training and awareness programme.
- Written procedures to control activities with a significant environmental impact.
- A controlled system of records.
- A programme of regular auditing.
- A formal review process for the EMS.
This series of Worksheets uses the ISO 14001 model to explain the operation of an EMS but it is also possible to follow the EC’s Eco-Management and Audit Scheme (EMAS) or even to develop an in-house EMS. Companies using the first two approaches can obtain formal certification to ISO 14001 or EMAS verification.
It is not necessary to get external recognition of an EMS to obtain many of the benefits but the formal approach increases the commitment to continual improvement and to identifying opportunities for ongoing improvements and cost savings. External recognition increases the credibility of an EMS with customers and suppliers and provided you have systematically and properly implemented your EMS then certification does not require much more effort.
Gain senior management commitment
Strong senior management commitment is essential to ensuring the successful implementation and operation of an EMS.
The benefits and aims of the EMS should be explained to senior managers before starting the implementation process (see GG125 in the ‘More Information’ box). Convincing senior managers will require a project plan and a detailed estimate of the potential costs and also the potential cost savings from adopting an EMS.
Build on existing systems
There will be links between existing quality management, health and safety management and other management systems.
These links should be reinforced and not re-invented. Remember that it is environmentally good to re-use so do it with procedures as well e.g. document control procedures used in other management systems may be suitable for use in the EMS.
To be ready for certification to ISO 14001, the EMS should have been fully operational for at least three months and at least one Management Review should have been conducted. For initial registration, participants need to have a fully operational EMS with an audit programme already in place and started, and to produce an initial and validated Environmental Statement. The requirements for these will be covered in later Worksheets.
Many companies use the same certification body for their EMS as for their QMS. However, it is important to check that your certifier is accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) for ISO 14001 certification. You should also check that the proposed certifier/verifier has relevant experience in the plastics industry.
Certifiers use a range of methods for certification. Make sure you understand the different stages of the proposed certification process and what the certifier will be looking for at each stage. Ask your chosen certifier to run through the process of certification with you.
Before the certifier visits the site for the first time, hold a meeting to ensure everyone knows about the certification and what it will entail.
An ‘Initial Review’ will help you to gather the data that will give a ‘snapshot’ of where your company is now with environmental issues. Regular reviews will help you to quantify the savings made and maintain the momentum for implementing your EMS.
Formal certification of an EMS is a significant milestone but it is not the end of the journey. Every EMS needs continued attention to deliver continual improvement and savings. This must be appreciated by senior managers - otherwise the initial enthusiasm for the EMS may decline after certification is achieved.
Implementing an EMS with a focus on waste minimisation and continual improvement will help to reduce costs and improve environmental performance. The practical steps in implementing an EMS are:
- Obtain commitment from senior management (use the free information from GG125 to prepare a business case).
- Understand the main elements of an EMS to ISO 14001 and familiarise yourself with the standard’s requirements.
- Appoint someone to oversee the implementation and operation of the EMS.
- Develop an environmental policy.
- Identify your company’s environmental aspects.
- Evaluate the significance of your environmental aspects and draw up an Aspects Register.
- Identify legislative requirements and draw up a Register of Legislation.
- Set objectives and targets.
- Assign responsibility.
- Develop employee awareness and conduct training.
- Prepare procedures to deliver operational and document control.
- Implement a programme of regular monitoring and measurement of significant aspects, e.g. waste, water use and energy use.
- Develop an internal audit mechanism and timetable.
- Review progress and, if necessary, revise your policy, objectives and targets.
This series of Worksheets will cover most of these activities in the coming months.
- Waste Minimisation Pays: Five business reasons for reducing waste (GG125).
- Environmental Management Systems for the plastics industry (GG251).
- Finding and reducing waste in plastics processing (GG277).
Available free from the Environment and Energy Helpline (0800 585 794) or can be downloaded from this site.
The "Practical Environmental Management Systems" series is designed to give plastics processors an insight into how to implement an Environmental Management System. The series is being published in Polymer Engineering on a monthly basis and is published here after the Polymer Engineering publication. The series is:
Part 1: Clean business = good business (This Section)
Part 2: Starting out
Part 3: Managing interactions with the environment
Part 4: The basic EMS system
Part 5: Operating an EMS system
Download the complete series as an Adobe Acrobat file.
Last edited: 11/03/10
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