Take a moment to think about your trashcan. How much time does it take to fill it up? What’s the least amount of waste you’ve ever been able to throw away in a week? The world’s largest manufacturer of consumer packaged goods, Procter & Gamble, is working to effectively eliminate waste to landfill from their factories worldwide. Since even the most efficient operations have waste, P&G created a team in 2007 to turn its manufacturing waste into something with of worth. Forbes McDougall, P&G’s Global Wastestreams leader, oversees the program in P&G plants across the globe. “We focus on a partnership approach with our sites and leverage the intellectual capacity of our waste management partners,” says McDougall.
Currently, 45 P&G sites have met the goal of sending zero manufacturing waste to landfills, and the company hopes to increase that number to 50 by the end of the 2013 fiscal year. Achieving the goal of sending zero waste to landfills requires several steps, including gathering data, understanding the market for recyclable materials at the location, creating a team to drive the project and working with suppliers and partners who have innovative solutions to use material that would otherwise end up as waste.
Above: Forbes McDougall at P&G's site in Apizaco
The driving factor to eliminate waste to landfill is part of P&G’s long-term environmental vision – and sites are quickly getting on board. “As sites develop effective recycling systems, they see the economic benefits of recycling revenues versus disposal costs,” says McDougall. “And then the final goal of zero waste to landfill becomes more desirable and teams get more creative in the solutions they identify and deliver.”
While P&G certainly considers finding value in waste an accomplishment, McDougall is realistic about the challenges that lay ahead, saying, “ [I] know that as we get closer to our goal, the waste we are left with is more challenging to find solutions for.” He goes on to say, Today though, more than 99 percent of materials entering P&G plants leave as something with value–either as a product to be recycled, reused or converted to energy, or as a finished product.
The very first location to reach zero waste was a site in Budapest. McDougall says, “It had a very good recycling program in place, which was the result of strong site leadership, and they had a partnership with an innovative waste management supplier that enabled more and more material to be diverted from landfill to recycling solutions until the site achieved zero waste to landfill status.”
Wondering what all that waste gets turned into? This interactive infographic illustrates many of P&G’s most innovative uses of manufacturing waste, including: baby wipes converted to upholstery stuffing, razor blade cartridges converted to broom handles, and paper pulp converted to low-cost roofing tiles.
This work is only part of P&G’s long-term environmental sustainability vision. Their blueprint for the future includes plants powered with 100 percent renewable energy, both consumer and manufacturing waste reduced to zero landfill waste, and products made with 100 percent renewable or recycled materials. McDougall says, “These goals direct our work into some exciting new priority areas, and add to the traditional environmental safety and scientific method development that we’ve been conducting for decades.”
To learn more about P&G’s efforts to reach zero waste to landfill, check out this infographic, which showcases the waste to worth stories of six different P&G products.