Landfill-free Manufacturing: Ideas for You?

June 21, 2012

A couple of car companies at the 2012 Auto Show in Chicago touted their "Zero landfill" achievements. My first reaction: Wow! My second reaction: Yeah, right.

Dozens of client projects gave me the opportunity to visit dozens of U.S. auto and heavy equipment manufacturing plants over several decades, although none recently. My recollection was that, although most of the facilities were clean and well-managed, not one was even close to eliminating waste completely.

Yesterday's headline GM: 100th Facility is Landfill Free jolted me into realizing what a time-warp I've been in these past couple of years. 100th facility? Seems like just yesterday that those plants had barrels, drums and dumpsters overflowing hourly with waste metal shavings, broken skids and assorted packing materials. So, how out of touch have I been?

A lot, apparently. A search on "landfill free manufacturers" quickly revealed how many production facilities have gone green big time. There's even a publication called Green Manufacturer, which ran an article in January, 2012 called Manufacturers Gone Zero Landfill. It lists auto makers Subaru, Honda and GM in the forefront of the zero landfill movement. Burt's Bees, a skin-care products company that uses only natural products, achieved zero-landfill status in 2010.

It's true, car makers and some of the other companies I found (e.g. Sunoco, Kimberly-Clark) have a lot of resources at their, ahem, disposal. And an extra driving force is cost-saving through greater efficiency and reduced cost of materials and operations. Perhaps ironically, the lessons these companies learned can help us ordinary citizens to become more savvy resource conservers as well as consumers of their products.

Categories: Words to the Wise, June 2012
Topics: Green, Waste Reduction