Reducing Manufacturing Waste

The Australian Department of the Environment has developed a National Waste Policy, which consists of waste management and resource recovery directions and standards, effective until 2020. They created the policy in response to major increases in waste and the transition to increasingly complex goods that are hard to recover from discarded products.

The aims of the policy include:

  • Avoiding waste generation
  • Reducing the amount of waste (including hazardous waste) for disposal
  • Managing waste as resource
  • Ensuring waste treatment, recovery and re-use and disposal is performed in a safe, environmentally sound and scientific way
  • Contributing to reducing greenhouse gas emissions, water efficiency, and productivity of the land, energy conservation, and production

Manufacturers can reduce waste in a variety of ways to meet these benchmarks. Business needs to make a plan, build the infrastructure necessary for waste management programs and to make sure they follow daily protocols.

Isolate the waste source

The first step in reducing manufacturing waste is to isolate the type of waste produced and its origin. The next step is to study the materials and create a reduction plan. It is crucial to get buy-in from management and employees. After all, no protocol will ever be effective if people do not support it.

Build a waste management infrastructure

Depending on the type of waste in your plant and other priorities, this step will vary. However, your plan must have clear objectives and goals. Reduction measures are likely to include sourcing and using recycled products from recycling/remanufacturing services, establishing locations for recycled waste collection and more.

In many cases, new protocols will be necessary to move items from their current waste stream to a re-use or recycling process.

These waste reduction opportunities will help you to guide the planning and infrastructure stages.

Change to reusable packaging

Packaging materials are a big area of potential waste. Manufacturers are able to work with customers and suppliers on waste reduction and re-use programs.

Some examples of opportunities where you could reduce packaging are to find ways to return excess packaging to suppliers for re-use and work with clients to do the same, re-use pallets and transition to reusable containers.

Reduce your paper waste

Many manufacturers have office staff and a few changes can make a big difference in reducing paper waste.

  • Buy and use recycled paper
  • Re-use notepads and paper where possible
  • Recycle used paper
  • Use recycling bins and recycle boxes for computer paper
  • Change to paperless records management
  • Use reusable inter-office envelopes for in-house distribution
  • Email your memos instead of printing them on paper

Encourage clients to recycle

Many products ship with excess packaging. As well as reusing packaging supplies, the National Waste Policy suggests that manufacturers should use recyclable packaging and provide the recycling instructions for their clients.

Buy recycled products

It is not always possible, but it is far more preferable to reuse items than recycle them. For example, refilling toner cartridges or re-treading tyres.

The final step in your waste management process is to make sure everyone follows your protocols. This means educating employees, monitoring and using compliance tracking.