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April 16th, 2013:

Procter & Gamble and the case of the disappearing waste

Procter & Gamble and the case of the disappearing waste

How does the consumer products company ensure 99 per cent of raw materials leave its facilities as product or something of value?

Procter & Gamble will today announce 45 of its sites across 20 countries now send zero waste to landfill, but the story of how it has achieved that landmark is far more interesting than simple operational efficiency.

Of course, as global waste management leader Forbes McDougall says, improving manufacturing processes has played a significant role in helping the consumer goods company’s waste programme rack up over $1bn in value for the business.

“For a long time we put a lot of effort into optimising manufacturing processes – about 96 per cent of the raw materials coming into plants now go out as product,” he says. “But we wrote-off the end of pipe stuff as a cost of doing business.But by finding a use for the near-impossible to eliminate by-products of the manufacturing process, P&G now ensures less than one per cent of all materials entering its sites across the globe leave as waste.

“And while our optimisation work was co-ordinated across the globe, the end of pipe stuff was being done on a site-by-site basis relying on enthusiastic individuals.”

That was until a purchasing team in Frankfurt spotted how much P&G was spending on waste management. “Millions of pounds in the UK alone,” says McDougall. “Multiple millions of dollars across the globe.”

The team thought that by putting hard-nosed purchasing principles into practice, such as leveraging scale, it could claw back some of this spending. The team then quickly grew into a global group tasked with developing creative solutions to reusing the four per cent of materials that were not being turned into Pampers, Gillette, Ariel or P&G’s other products.

“We started by helping sites sort separation, but then we got a bit more creative in finding partners that could bring technology to us,” MacDougall says. But after a couple of years, the company realised it was spending money to dispose of quite valuable materials.

“We started to think of this stuff as a resource – in an ideal world we don’t want to be thinking about waste management at all,” McDougall says.

“So we said we didn’t want to pay you – we want you to pay to use these materials,” McDougall continues, before admitting: “It went down better in some places than others.”

One of the most interesting examples of this approach is how P&G deals with excess production of Fairy detergent. Around 600 tonnes of unusable liquid is collected and mixed with water to create a new formula that is then used for industrial cleaning of road signs and trucks.

Then there are razor cartridges from P&G’s Venus range that are shredded, separated from the blades using a magnet, and melted, dyed and moulded into broom handles. Around 1.2 million broom handles are produced in this way each year, which are 80 per cent made from recycled razor cartridges.

However, perhaps the most impressive product is made using paper sludge from manufacturing Charmin toilet roll in Mexico. By mixing the sludge with cardboard scraps and water, a small local firm produces 128,000 roofing tiles and 25 million bricks a month.

McDougall says the company ensures that these innovative suppliers are not wholly reliant on its waste products, so that they are not left without a business if P&G does improve its processes.

Of course, these kinds of suppliers – and many forms of waste infrastructure – are not readily available across the globe, which means in many cases the solutions are not applicable from country-to-country.

But there is no let-up in the company’s ambition to spread the zero waste message to more of its 150 sites – over the years to 2020 it intends to continue reducing manufacturing waste to landfill so that it accounts for less than 0.5 per cent of input materials.

And having tackled the large volume waste stream, McDougall says the company is left with “smaller volume, ‘difficult’ materials that we are going to have to get creative with and really look outside of P&G for innovative solutions”.

McDougall is confident the target can be met, and expects more facilities to become available as tightening environmental regulations and cost constraints push more companies down this route.

“It seems simple and straight-forward, but so many companies don’t seem to be doing it,” he says. “But as environmental legislation improves, the price is only going up. So there is a clear incentive to work on it.”

Universities to Study Waste Based Fuels in Cement Production

Universities to Study Waste Based Fuels in Cement Production

12 April 2013

By Ben Messenger
Managing Editor of Waste Management World magazine

Universities to Study Waste Based Fuels in Cement Production

Global building materials company CEMEX (NYSE:CX) has agreed to collaborate with the Earth Engineering Center (EEC) at Columbia University and City College of New York study of the life cycle effects of using alternative fuels in cement manufacturing.

According to the company the EEC will conduct a year-long study which will result in a better understanding of the role that alternative fuels play in society and the environment.

Led by Professors Nickolas Themelis (who will also sit on the HKG ENB’s bonfire promotion seminar in May) and Marco Castaldi, from Columbia University and the City College of New York, respectively, the study will focus on waste combustion technologies implemented in CEMEX kilns in the U.S. and Mexico.

CEMEX said that since 2005 it has invested more than $175 million, adjusting its production process and installing equipment to use alternative fuels in its cement kilns.

The company added that by 2012 it had achieved approximately a 27% alternative fuel substitution rate in its cement production and is on track to achieve its target of a 35% substitution by 2015.

“This collaboration with EEC underscores the urgency of searching for alternative fuels given the continuing rise of oil prices and the increase of waste in landfills,” explained Luis Farias, CEMEX’s senior vice president of energy and sustainability.

“The alternative fuel strategy has already enabled CEMEX to avoid the emission of approximately 2.5 million tons of CO2 into the atmosphere per year,” he added.

Professor Themelis explained that the study is of great interest to the EEC because globally cement production is the largest materials-based high-temperature process -therefore cement kilns present great potential to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill.

“This study provides EEC with the opportunity to develop a knowledge position similar to that EEC has attained in the global waste to energy technology and industry,” commented the professor.

The importance of knowing who does the auditing

Tuesday, 16 April, 2013, 12:00am



Howard Winn

Yau’s awful legacy

The high roadside pollution levels yesterday are a further reminder of the legacy of former chief executive Donald Tsang Yam-kuen and secretary for the environment Edward Yau Tang-wah. Despite mounting evidence that roadside pollution was getting worse in Hong Kong, they did next to nothing about it.

The Hedley Environmental Index, which relates Hong Kong’s roadside pollution to World Health Organisation standards, moved beyond the “very dangerous” level yesterday and went off the scale.

Tsang tried to make out that Hong Kong’s dirty air was only a problem for expatriates. Yau for his part would talk glibly about the need to “balance” public health with economic development. Even when he was shamed into setting a date for the introduction of new air quality objectives, he disingenuously claimed that the legislative process meant they couldn’t be introduced before 2014, when in fact he had the authority to do it almost immediately. His is an awful legacy. But he has nevertheless been rewarded with another stint in government as the Director of Office of the Chief Executive. Membership of the government/civil service club seems to entail a job for life regardless of performance.