Sustainability is possibly one of the most critical challenges of the 21st century. The concept of sustainability has in the past, only been associated with the environment and impacts on natural resources. The real value of sustainability is in the management of a combination of economic, environmental, social, cultural, human and knowledge capital for the well-being of the planet, today and in the future.
The good news is that many companies are now understanding this, and realising successful outcomes from a variety of sustainability initiatives they have put in place. Practices that see companies reducing waste, separating materials and properly gathering, reprocessing and repurposing materials rather than sending them to landfill.
The first step in sustainable manufacturing is to reduce waste at its source. By developing comprehensive action plans, organisations can identify ways in which to limit manufacturing inventory waste that requires little, or no investment. Businesses can undertake simple steps, such as reusing the boxes and packaging materials from the receipt of manufacturing inventory components to use in the shipping or dispatch of finished goods.
One British manufacturer has eliminated flammable materials from their inventory manufacturing product lines, achieving significant reductions in solvent use and emissions through material substitution. In addition to reducing its level of hazardous waste, the company achieved considerable savings by removing the need to upgrade electrical equipment to meet safety and flameproof standards.
To repurpose is to take one thing and use it for something else before it goes through any process or breakdown. Cafes and restaurants can now collect coffee grounds to be composted for use as a fertiliser, soil conditioner or mulch. This by-product of your morning coffee is no longer waste, but something that is repurposed for practical use elsewhere.
Repurposing can be made easy by providing training for staff involved in waste management and by having dedicated collection and storage points to make waste segregation easier.
Recycling is the practice of converting scrap or waste into new products. Bio-waste can be converted into renewable fuels, transforming it into pallets to become a source of energy and warmth from wood-fired heating.
By using recycled polymers, manufacturers within the plastics industry can reduce energy use by up to 80 percent. Segregated plastic scrap can be sent to licensed recyclers to be ground into pellets for reuse.
The manufacturing industry is increasingly achieving growth in areas of clean energy manufacturing by adopting alternative power sources in renewables, such as solar power and wind-turbine energy solutions. Through innovation and the development of effective alternatives to the burning of fossil fuels, manufacturers are contributing to a cleaner future.