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Sustainability is a critical aspect of our present and future well-being, as it encompasses a vast array of interconnected issues that shape our environment, economy, and society. However, the multitude of possibilities within the realm of sustainability can be overwhelming, making it essential to narrow our focus.
In chemical manufacturing, lean thinking and continuous improvement practices can be applied to achieve daily environmental sustainability goals. Whilst waste identification comes naturally to many lean thinkers, a closer look at environmental waste requires action.
According to the Lean Institute, by walking the Gemba and viewing the work from an environmental perspective, we can capture the workflow and measure “green waste” at every process step. Looking at every step, checking data and enabling and empowering every worker to look for insights and act can help to build a greener operation.
In this article, we delve into the seven categories of environmental waste. Inspired by Gary Cundill and Rose Heathcote, who have adapted these classifications from Ohno’s seven wastes, we also provide suggestions on how businesses enhance each aspect. The seven types of waste we discuss are energy, water, materials, garbage, transport, emissions, and biodiversity.
The 7 Types of Green Waste and How Organisations Can Combat Them
1. Energy Waste
Energy waste refers to the inefficient use or unnecessary consumption of energy resources and is one of the most significant challenges nowadays. It considers electricity and other types of energy, such as thermal and mechanical energy. By optimising energy consumption, we can reduce energy waste and minimise our carbon emissions. To address and improve the several types of green waste within an organisation, several strategies and initiatives can be explored. Here are some examples:
- Analyse valve openings, flow rate trends, and other process parameters to optimise energy consumption, implementing an improvement methodology such as short interval control (SIC) or similar.
- Evaluate process design in every area to identify inefficiencies, such as running pumps against closed valves or excessive motor frequency.
- Consider different operating conditions for the day and night, considering weather and temperature differences and check for automation possibilities.
- Identify insulation opportunities to minimise heat loss and improve energy efficiency in piping and equipment.
- Explore options for integrating hot and cold streams, such as utilising boiler or cooling water purges to reduce energy waste.
- Look at the possibility of energy integration, considering internal processes and other plants/ buildings in the neighbourhood.
- Adopt energy-efficient practices in buildings and offices, such as increasing natural light illumination and using LED and intelligent systems.
- Evaluate if there are potential sustainable energy supplies available, such as biomass.
2. Water Waste
Water waste occurs when water is used inefficiently or irresponsibly. To address this issue, several actions can be taken, such as:
- Optimising cooling tower operations to minimise water losses through evaporation or purge, based on operation data.
- Assessing water consumption throughout the plant and identifying areas of high usage or potential hidden leaks, implementing an improvement methodology such as short interval control (SIC) or similar.
- Looking for leakages in piping and steam traps.
- Installing trigger-operated nozzles on hoses so operators can use less water during clean-up.
- Installing high-pressure, low-volume nozzles on water hoses.
- Implementing water-saving measures like recycling, reuse, and rainwater harvesting.
- Considering water-efficient equipment and technologies, such as low-flow fixtures or closed-loop systems.
3. Material Waste
Material waste refers to the excessive use of resources. It includes unnecessary raw material or product consumption, single-use items, and packaging. Different opportunities can be explored in the organisation, including:
- Identifying opportunities for raw material consumption reduction using short interval control (SIC) or similar methodology.
- Evaluating the possibility of recycling and reusing materials, avoiding the take-make-waste strategy.
- Evaluating material storage and handling procedures to minimise losses or spills.
- Having a clear understanding of the supply chain that brings the raw materials to your factory gates, ensures responsibility from suppliers.
- Collaborating with suppliers to explore options for eco-friendly and sustainable materials.
Adopting practices such as recycling, reusing, and opting for sustainable materials can help minimise material waste and promote a circular economy.
4. Garbage Waste
Garbage waste encompasses the improper disposal and management of waste materials. It includes sending recyclable items to landfills, littering, and accumulating non-biodegradable waste. Solutions to be explored include:
- Conducting an inventory of materials used in the plant’s operations, adjusting the minimum/ maximum needed quantities, avoiding materials to expire shelf life, and generating waste.
- Evaluating packaging materials and exploring options for eco-friendly alternatives.
- Engaging with waste management companies to ensure proper disposal of hazardous or non-recyclable waste.
- Evaluating the possibility of transforming the non-hazardous waste generated at the site into a by-product. Some can be used as valuable resources across various industries to build roads and other infrastructure, such as pavement, bridges, and buildings.
- Educating employees about waste reduction and encouraging their participation in recycling programs.
5. Transport Waste
Transport waste relates to unnecessary or inefficient transportation practices that contribute to fuel use and related emissions. Opportunities organisations can evaluate include:
- Reducing internal transportation of material and packaging. Build spaghetti diagrams for forklifts and other vehicles to identify improvements, minimising fuel consumption and emissions.
- Using on-site material storage and delivery to minimise external transportation requirements.
- Optimising transportation planning to minimise fuel consumption and emissions.
- Promoting the use of alternative transportation methods, such as rail or waterways, when feasible.
- Implementing carpooling or shuttle services to reduce the number of individual vehicles on the road.
- Encouraging remote working or flexible schedules to reduce commuting needs. Having proper tools are key to keeping up alignment and high performance.
6. Emission Waste
Emissions waste refers to releasing harmful gases and pollutants into the atmosphere. It includes emissions from industrial processes, vehicles, and energy production. Some points to look for improvement:
- Focus on production and raw material consumption efficiency to reduce emissions associated with transportation. Also, look at data and insight to prioritise and execute opportunities.
- Optimise combustion processes to minimise greenhouse gas emissions.
- Conduct regular emissions monitoring and compliance assessments to ensure adherence to environmental regulations and identify opportunities. Also, keeping them registered and organised.
- Implement emission control technologies, such as scrubbers or catalytic converters, to reduce air pollutants.
- Explore opportunities for carbon capture and storage or utilisation (CCS/U) technologies.
- Promote energy efficiency measures to reduce emissions associated with energy consumption indirectly.
7. Biodiversity Waste
Biodiversity waste occurs when ecosystems and habitats are degraded or destroyed. It includes deforestation, habitat fragmentation, and the loss of species diversity. To prevent this, manufacturers can:
- Implement measures to protect and preserve natural habitats within and around the site.
- Consider landscaping with native plants to support local wildlife and promote biodiversity.
- Develop a biodiversity conservation plan that includes initiatives like reforestation or habitat restoration.
- Engage with local communities and conservation organisations to foster partnerships and collaborate on biodiversity conservation efforts.
Protecting natural areas, promoting reforestation, and supporting conservation initiatives can help mitigate biodiversity waste and preserve our natural heritage.
The Eighth Waste
The 8th unspoken waste, but one of the most important is the mind. While the other wastes focus on tangible aspects such as energy, water, materials, garbage, transport, emissions, and biodiversity, the waste of mind highlights the importance of mindset and awareness in addressing these issues.
8. Mind Waste
As stated in the paragraph above, mind waste refers to the disregard or indifference towards environmental issues. It includes apathy, lack of awareness, and unsustainable consumer behaviours.
Educating ourselves, raising awareness, and fostering a mindset of environmental stewardship can help reduce mind waste and inspire positive change. Most people are willing to help and use their knowledge to build a more sustainable future.
In line with this, a recent survey conducted by Unily revealed that 63% of employees express a strong desire to acquire more green skills, recognising the value of becoming more environmentally knowledgeable and contributing to a sustainable workplace.
How Digitalisation is Empowering Workers to Minimise Waste
63% of employees would like to learn more green skills to become more valuable in the workplace.
Digitalisation plays a pivotal role in minimising waste by providing the necessary data and tools to effectively measure energy and water consumption, materials yield, and emissions generation.
This invaluable information enables businesses to identify areas of waste and transform them into opportunities, simultaneously creating a positive impact on both the environment and their bottom line.
The integration of digital technologies not only facilitates waste reduction but also fosters a culture of sustainability and empowers employees to make meaningful contributions towards a greener future.
Here at Cyzag, we believe people are the key to sustainable manufacturing. Workers are pivotal in the effort to minimise waste by offering innovative solutions that streamline processes, optimise resource utilisation, and promote sustainable practices.
Whilst having real-time data is valuable, it must be actionable. Software platforms like Cyzag empower workers with its user-centric approach to reduce waste, improve efficiency, and contribute to a more environmentally friendly future through the digitalisation of data.
Addressing the eight types of green waste requires a comprehensive approach that encompasses various aspects.
By recognising the environmental impact of energy, water, materials, garbage, transport, emissions, biodiversity, and mind waste, we can make informed choices and take meaningful actions towards a greener and more sustainable future.
Let us strive to minimise waste in all its forms and work together to protect and preserve our planet for generations to come!
Interested in discovering how Cyzag can benefit your business? Schedule a personalised demo to delve into your organisation’s pain points and workflows. Let’s discuss how Cyzag can work wonders for you!