Zero Waste to Landfill – Our Sustainable Journey

By Kevin West – Health, Safety, Security and Environment Manager (St Helens Plant, Knauf Insulation Northern Europe)

True sustainability is about much more than simply producing ‘green’ products – it must be an integral part of any business. As the UK’s leading insulation manufacturer and the third largest manufacturer of insulation in the world, we take our social and environmental responsibilities very seriously.

Our focus is to constantly develop products and processes to contribute towards greener and more energy efficiency environments. We are committed to continually improving our environmental and sustainability credentials.

In August, we reached one of our key milestones in our sustainability journey. All four of our manufacturing plants in the UK are now sending zero waste to landfill. At St. Helens, Cwmbran, Queensferry and Hartlepool, a number of measures have been introduced to achieve this status.

Both at St. Helens and Cwmbran, baled glass mineral wool waste is re-used by a ceiling tile manufacturer, while mixed glass wool and incidental packaging waste is collected by a recycling partner and re-processed for use as underground bedding.

Copyrighted by Knauf Insulation©

Copyrighted by Knauf Insulation©

Baled rock mineral wool waste is also re-used by a ceiling tile manufacturer and we have recently built a recycling facility at Queensferry to enable any material that is out of specification to be fed back into the manufacturing process.

At Hartlepool, all manufacturing waste is recycled back into the production process, while general and kitchen waste is collected by a recycling and waste management partner company.

Back in 2009, we were producing 5000 tonnes of general waste a year which was going to landfill. To date, by improved segregation of waste at source, this figure has been reduced by over 80% to less than 1000 tonnes which is a significant difference! This unsegregated waste now goes to a recycling processor (Material Recycling Facility – MRF) and so is diverted from landfill. This means we segregate more at source and so have reduced the tonnage and any tonnage of waste we produce as general waste is still recycled.

At the beginning of 2013, we were sending 14% of waste to landfill per month. By August, this is down to 0%. Reaching zero waste to landfill is a fantastic achievement and is a clear demonstration of our commitment to improving environmental performance.

3 thoughts on “Zero Waste to Landfill – Our Sustainable Journey

  1. What is the total cost savings? Have you been able to generate revenue from the sale of the waste? Was it difficult to achieve managerial buy-in? What were the largest hurdles? Was any capital investment required? If so, what was the pay-back time?

    • From Kevin West – Health, Safety, Security and Environmental Manager at St. Helens, Knauf Insulation Northern Europe

      Hi Kevin, thank you for the comment. Total cost savings are circa £100K per annum. We segregate more and so we get revenue from Clear Polythene, Cardboard, Metal and we sell dry fibre bales as a by-product (those that cannot be sold we send for re-processing at a cost to us but it still avoids going to landfill. Thanks to segregation, the ratio of saleable bales to disposal bales has increased).

      Regarding management buy in, it is difficult until the cost savings / revenue gaining potential was explained. The largest hurdle was getting the operators and guys on the shop floor to segregate their waste. Buy in was gained by supplying a site wide brief regarding the benefits to the business and the environment, together with including them in the decision of which waste containers go where and what type, to make it easy and as convenient for them as possible.

      Capital investment was minimal, just more tipping skips and plastic bins (colour coded), no extra machinery was required to facilitate this project. Payback was within two months.

      • Thank you Kevin. It is knowledge of precisely these types of details which can greatly facilitate buy-in and successful achievement of goals. I wish to share this story with students of sustainability in the hotel industry. Strangely enough, although the industries differ, there are many parallels (even the investment industry is focused on low cost, easy savings technology versus high-risk high tech).

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