Don’t be blinded by recycling!
Once again recently I was proudly told by a factory manager “We don’t have a waste problem – we recycle 95% of it – isn’t that fantastic?”. Recycling is great, but your fantastic achievement may be hiding waste reduction opportunities.
Taking a manufacturing business as an example, there are three types of waste:
1. Unavoidable process waste – waste that is intrinsic to your business. If you produce, say, chocolate flavouring from cocoa beans, then you will have cocoa residues left over no matter what. This should be recycled where possible and, if you are really clever, you can adjust your process to maximise its value for recycling/reuse.
2. Avoidable process waste – for example, offcuts, packaging of materials/components, solvents etc. Here you have a choice – eradication, recycling or normal disposal. Soaring landfill taxes are starting to rule out the latter for all but ‘difficult materials’, so you effectively have a choice of whether to reduce or recycle – that largely comes down to practicalities and economics.
3. Off-spec product (or components) – this is the worst kind of waste as you have added value to it only to throw it away. This waste should be terminated with extreme prejudice – particularly towards the end of your process where the value lost is the highest – I’ve seen far too many horror shows of good product being sprayed across factory floors by packing machines or careless forklift drivers.
I once heard waste described as “stuff you buy that you can’t sell” – a brilliant summation of the economic driver to reduce waste.