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Although manufacturing facilities oftentimes have the greatest potential for recycling opportunities and good paybacks they are also prone to delaying or ignoring the benefits.  Just the initial stages of gathering data can be a huge task for some depending upon the size of the facility but usually the larger the task is for preparation the larger the paybacks will be.  The trend for implementation of recycling programs at manufacturing facilities is definitely on the rise.  There are many ways for encouraging recycling at manufacturing plants regardless of whether the facility is big or small.  Aside from the direct monetary paybacks there are tremendous streamlining benefits that are also gained. Many of the waste materials that are generated in the manufacturing process such as paper, plastics and metals can be recycled and recovered.

Recycling Tips

  • The first step of preparing for the implementation of a recycling program is to determine the types of recyclable materials that are being discarded and the approximate volume per week or per month for each of the recyclables materials.  Just a quick observation to determine where more focus is needed.  

  • After determining the largest group or groups of recyclable materials that are being discarded try to determine where the largest bulk of these materials is originating within the facility such as the department or work stations of whatever other common ground you are able to pinpoint.  

  • Determine the best manner or the best means by which the work flow or work routines could be changed in order to easily separate these materials out from the waste stream while also avoiding major distractions or inefficiencies to the existing routines and work flows. Basically you are looking for the greatest impact for recovering the recyclable materials with the least impact on worker productivity.  If the procedures involving the recycling program are much too cumbersome, intrusive, inefficient or demanding on the employees the recycling program will have little chance of succeeding.  
  • Once you have decided on a good work flow for separating and capturing the recyclable materials then you will want to try putting some recycling bins in the best locations for that will accommodate this collection process. There will likely be some trial and error before the permanent placement of these bins is decided upon. Label the bins clearly and indicate the type of materials that are to go in each bin. Initially, until new habits are formed you may have to post extra reminders in each of the areas.  

  • It is usually a good idea to outline the procedures in a memorandum so that employees can give feedback on any suggestions for improvement. The updates will also serve as a reminder for all employees that management is taking the recycling program seriously and that employee cooperation is much needed and appreciated.

  • After the periodic memorandums have been in place for several weeks (in which case the refinement process seems to be finalized) it is a good idea to create a  ‘Recycling Manual’ that can be referred to not only by existing employees but new employees as well. This will serve as an important point of reference as the recycling program grows and becomes more and more efficient with time.  The manual should also include before and after information that highlights the amount of money and recyclables being saved as a result of the recycling program. As these numbers grow it will create more and more incentive for the employees to come up with new ideas for achieving additional benefits from the program. It will also give them a clear picture of how mismanaged a company can be when they don’t recycle.  

  • As with any new program initial objectives for building the right habits quickly are to try to blend or tailor the program with the corporate culture, employees and existing routines as much as possible so that the new habits are much easier on the entire organization. And, making it fun and intere4sting can go a long way towards getting the cooperation of all who are involved.  

Waste Reduction Tips

Approach waste reduction with a “lean” viewpoint. Many manufacturing facilities are familiar with the “lean manufacturing” or “lean production” approach to business. Looking at a waste reduction program for a manufacturing facility the same way gives you a head start. The difference between the approach to a similar waste program is not the goal but the key start to achieving it.

Managing waste can be easy with some basic controls in place. For example:

  • 1. Build systems around waste that is is densified and packaged for easier handling and hauling.

  • 2. Whenever possible use non-hazardous materials instead of hazardous and toxic substances. 

  • 3. Montior waste processing details on a regular basis. Oftentimes the information gathered from your waste can be an indication of good management or mismanagement that is taking place in other areas of your business.  For example, does your waste stream contain a large amount of bad parts that must be discarded, and is that volume increasing or decreasing.  

  • 4. Establish a Waste and Recycling mission statement that provides a basis for your company's vision. Provide incentives for those who are generating the best ideas and contributing the most to the mission statement.

  • 5. Engage the help of not only local recycling coordinators but also nearby colleges and universities who may be interested in Waste and Recycling related school projects. Recently in Ann Arbor, Michigan owners of small and mid-size manufacturing facilities were offered pro-bono work by University of Michigan student engineers. These engineers gave free consulting on how to improve efficiency, create less waste and gain higher profits. You never know when graduate students near you are interested in using your site for a master thesis. 

Again, recycling and manufacturing programs can seem daunting to implement but the benefits to business and the environment as well as huge cost savings through government incentives and general bottom line gains are well worth the effort.

Contributor / Editor - Matt Kennedy - Refer questions to info@wastecare.com

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