Waste Minimisation in Plastics Processing - Part 4
The fourth in a series of waste minimisation worksheets by Dr. Robin Kent for Envirowise to help the plastics industry reduce costs through waste minimisation.
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The success of waste minimisation depends on the active support of the Managing Director and other senior managers. Senior management can:
- demonstrate visible leadership
- encourage employee participation
- set clear waste minimisation targets
- promote a company-wide policy on environmental affairs.
Choosing a co-ordinator
A waste minimisation co-ordinator is needed because reducing waste in one area of the business may require action in other areas. The co-ordinator needs three essential qualities:
- management authority or direct access to senior management
- enthusiasm and ability to motivate people
- a working knowledge of waste management or a willingness to learn.
The waste minimisation co-ordinator is not necessarily a ‘full time job and could be the Managing Director, Production or Quality Manager.
The main responsibilities are:
- co-ordinating waste segregation and measurement.
- identifying opportunities to prevent waste.
- locating priority action areas.
- setting up waste reduction teams.
- allocating ‘ownership of waste’.
- raising waste reduction awareness.
- creating monitoring systems for regular feedback to both managers and the workforce - this is essential for success.
- working with suppliers to identify areas for materials reduction or recovery.
This may sound a lot of work, but the role is to co-ordinate and facilitate. It will be the waste minimisation team, or teams, who will actually achieve the results.
In order to make ‘fast starts’ on obvious waste reduction opportunities, the first task is to identify the priority areas for action, . Implementing some quick and cheap cost-saving measures will provide evidence of the real benefits to the company of following a systematic approach.
1. Gather available information
To identify the ‘fast starts’, you need to obtain information about your site and its activities. Concentrate on collecting information that is easily available.
- Walk round and review the site.
- Write down the quantities and direct costs of the ‘wastes’ that you can see. GG38C (available from the Helpline) has forms that can help do this. Identify major sources of waste - such as packaging, lubricants, energy, water and rework.
- Don’t worry if information is not available. Make some ‘best’ estimates or take simple measurements to provide approximate information.
Tip - Take photographs of waste and where it is being produced. These will show much waste there is, and help for comparison with future improvements.
Useful further actions
- When estimating costs, remember to go beyond the obvious, e.g. wasted material. Estimate the consequential costs of wasted process time, handling etc.
- Try to identify the main areas and quantities of energy, water and raw materials use. Compare these values with the total use. If there are major discrepancies, try to find out why. The unexplained use of energy, water or raw material may be one of the biggest sources of waste!
Tip - Good communication is essential to success. Involve people in reducing waste and tell them about the successes.
To make sure all the wastes have been identified use a process flowsheet (see next month for details of the tools) and to go through the process with a key staff. These actions should help to highlight areas for improvement.
2. Identifying priorities
Generate some ideas for reducing major wastes to achieve immediate savings. Decide on the priorities to ensure some early successes.
- Find the major sources of waste.
- Identify the priority areas. These may be the largest quantities, e.g. effluents or solid waste to landfill or the highest net costs, e.g. disposal costs, energy consumption, raw material wastage.
- Talk to the staff involved in the activity producing the waste to understand why it is produced. Is it because no-one had seriously considered there was a problem or because it is an established practice may no longer be relevant?
- Use a waste reduction team or other staff to come up with ideas for preventing major wastes. Simply asking staff for ideas can often be very useful. Informal ‘brainstorming’ sessions are the best way of generating ideas. Estimate the savings you will achieve from the best ideas.
- Focus on a few major areas with the largest financial savings and where there are practical ideas for making changes.
In one day you should be able to identify potential actions to make ‘fast start’ savings and put them in order of priority.
3. Making the first savings
To make your first savings:
- Make an action plan.
- Agree who is going to do what and by when.
- Involve the ‘front line’ staff controlling operations that produce waste to define aims and priorities, as well as to allocate responsibility.
- Set the plan in motion, and review progress against the plan’s aims.
Tip - Simple ideas are often most effective. Look at ET30 ‘Finding Hidden Profit - 200 Practical Tips for Reducing Waste’, available free from the Helpline.
4. Measuring savings
To demonstrate savings, it is necessary to measure:
- Waste production e.g. - Skips per month.
- Raw material use e.g. - Orders per month
- Utility use e.g. - What was the last bill?
As part of the action plan, make sure that simple measuring systems are in place. These should be both cost-effective and appropriate. Decide on the measurement level necessary to check progress, and include regular checks in the plan. Use simple information gathering methods such as:
- stock control information
- installed meters for energy and water
- separating different types of important solid waste to measure waste simply by weight or volume
- counting waste containers - helpful for less important wastes, but not as effective as weighing;
- timing how long it takes to fill a bucket and multiplying up the time to estimate continuous liquid flows over a day or week.
Record these measurements for reference.
5. Achieving more savings
Progress reviews will provide evidence that waste reduction is worth the commitment and effort.
Tip - Take some more photographs to record any visible changes.
Use this evidence to convince management and employees that a waste reduction programme is profitable and extend the operations. Contact the Helpline for further information on areas for cost reduction.
The "Waste Minimisation" series is designed to give plastics processors an insight into how to minimise wasting valuable resources. The series is being published in British Plastics and Rubber on a monthly basis and published here after the BP&R publication. The series is:
Part 1: The Business Reasons
Part 2: A Waste Walk Around and Action Plan
Part 3: Assessing Performance
Part 4: Improving Performance
Part 5: Waste Minimisation Tools
Download the complete series as an Adobe Acrobat file.
Last edited: 29/11/11
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