Waste management was once seen as a nice-to-have component of a sustainability program but is now a vital piece of the puzzle for organizations looking to reduce their impact on the environment.
For one Fortune 1000 global food and products manufacturer, this couldn’t be more true. With diverse waste streams, and ample opportunity to increase reuse and recycling while reducing their production of waste overall, this food manufacturer is looking to lead their sector in zero waste efforts.
With a goal of reducing their waste-to-landfill to no more than 10%, the manufacturer knew they needed help to make this goal a reality across their portfolio of sites. Variances in regulation, waste collection and treatment contracts, and waste characteristics created challenges in having a holistic, strategic, and measurable program. So the manufacturer turned to ENGIE Impact to support their waste venture, from opportunity identification to execution, to measurement and reporting, and ongoing optimization.
Starting in 2017, ENGIE Impact and the manufacturer set out to better understand where their waste reduction and reuse opportunities were. This process started with more than 20 waste audits throughout 2018 and 2019. The varying site and waste characteristics unveiled unique opportunities across their portfolio, totaling 2 million dollars in potential savings.
Through the waste expense management process, ENGIE Impact disaggregated the manufacturer’s total waste costs into five categories, identifying the exact spend attributed to each category at the site and portfolio level.
Efficiency in the process was a key motivator for this manufacturer. So to ensure execution at speed and scale, the ENGIE Impact team helped the manufacturer prioritize opportunities based on ROI and impact toward their waste goal as they went through the audit process. This allowed them to condense the execution timeline and run it concurrently with opportunity identification. Some examples of executable work include:
Site-by-Site Employee Training
At every site audited, there was a heavy emphasis on employee training, which was always custom in nature due to every facility manufacturing a different kind of product and, in some cases, only operating seasonally with a constantly changing workforce. Ongoing training continues to be in place for those sites that operate seasonally.
Increase the Recycling Rate of Discarded Packaging
One of the biggest opportunities identified consistently from plant to plant was the large volume of discarded consumer packaging that was either imperfect or harmed in the filling process. This also applied to packaging that contained operational materials for the plants themselves, like ingredients for the products they were producing. The consumer packaging, in some cases, was recyclable, but there was no process in place to divert it from their standard waste stream. ENGIE Impact improved this process by identifying the best waste collection and treatment companies and training employees on best practices. For the operational packaging, ENGIE Impact found that materials would be shipped in non-recyclable containers. Liquids might arrive in plastic buckets that were hard to clean, and ultimately, it was more cost-effective to throw them away. ENGIE Impact worked with materials suppliers to change the format of delivery to arrive in containers that significantly reduced the amount of non-recyclable waste created. For example, liquids now arrive in a bag that’s placed in a recyclable box. The only non-recyclable waste is the bag, which has a much smaller footprint.
Diverting Organics to Food Banks and Farms
Another opportunity identified and executed across many plants was diverting food to national food banks and organic waste to farms. This helped not only reduce food waste but in the case of diverting to farms for animal feed, acted as a revenue stream for the manufacturer.
To ensure their waste program is on track and performing to goal, ENGIE Impact has supported the manufacturer with ongoing measurement and reporting against key metrics, both at the site level and across their entire portfolio. In addition to the results highlighted below, ENGIE Impact helped the manufacturer manage 104 waste supplier agreements and resolve an average of 8 missing invoices a month.
waste spend managed per year across 46 locations
average spend decrease per year
waste invoices processed per year
increase in diversion rates in one year
So what does the future look like for this global manufacturer’s waste program? Together, ENGIE Impact and the manufacturer are working to optimize their waste program and identify the next big areas of opportunity. One opportunity on the horizon includes broader stakeholder engagement like working with their customer base to understand how they can shift their own manufacturing processes and the materials they source to support their customers waste goals, not just their own.