Managing waste: partners in grime

Legislation is compelling manufacturing companies to manage waste rather than dispose of it. To this end, Wastefile UK offers a complete waste management service.

In response to pressure on the government by the EU to reduce the amount of waste ending up in Britain’s landfill sites, businesses within the manufacturing sector are being forced to adopt a more environmentally friendly approach towards waste disposal – or suffer the consequences.

The introduction of legislation such as the European Waste List means that a much larger number of waste streams are now classified as special/hazardous. At the same time, restrictions applied by the Landfill Directive are leading to significant reductions in available capacity for such waste. Increasingly many companies (especially in manufacturing) are finding there is simply no place for their waste.

Brian Marshall, compliance manager at waste management company Wastefile UK, remarks: “The first and best solution is for manufacturing companies to prevent waste getting anywhere near landfill”.

But, this causes a conflict of interests for some of the more conventional waste management companies who own landfill sites. Although most of them are investing in alternative disposal routes, there are obvious economic reasons for the continuing use of landfill. Brian continues: “Without this historical baggage, independent facilitation companies like Wastefile UK, who are not bound to any specific disposal routes are able to choose perfect-fit solutions.”

The government’s ‘cradle-to-grave’ approach has seen additional legislation increase the complexity of waste management. For example the WEEE directive will now compel manufacturers to rethink waste issues, not only at production stage, but also in the management of the product at ‘end-of-life’. And we now see magistrates receiving new guidelines on sentencing companies (or individuals) found guilty of non-compliance offences. In short, it is the court’s aim to deliver a financial blow to directors and shareholders of companies who contravene the law, although it is possible for them to receive custodial sentences as well.

On the right track

Keeping track of legislative development, let alone the logistics and technological development of waste management, is now a full-time job. Many are finding that outsourcing is the only viable solution to this problematic area of their business.

Waste management facilitator Wastefile UK is experiencing a significant increase in clients looking to outsource their waste management, especially from the manufacturing sector. The company recently won a £3M contract from Alcoa to manage all waste streams for each of its 13 manufacturing plants in the UK. “Nowadays waste management carries an incredible amount of responsibility and needs to be handled with precision”, says Chris Martin, Wastefile UK’s sales director. “Manufacturers like Alcoa are able to rely on Wastefile UK to manage that responsibility for them.”

Wastefile UK offers a complete waste management service including the design and implementation of waste policies, minimisation systems, recycling and disposal. “Every client is different”, says Chris. “The solutions available are changing rapidly – which is why we do not simply collect and dispose of waste. Our approach is to work in partnership with customers as part of their team, taking responsibility for staff if appropriate, to achieve the best possible solution”.

The first and most important stage of the process, according to Chris, is assessment. This includes site visits, staff interviews and evaluation of current procedures. “This doesn’t just give us the information we need to build a strategy, it also helps us to establish relationships at every level of the company. Only when we have the full picture can we begin to implement a strategy.”

Increasing profitability

The Environment Agency suggests manufacturing could add £2-3Bn to profits if environmental best practice were adopted across the board. This represents a 10-15 per cent reduction in waste disposal costs which are easily identified. “But it’s just the tip of the iceberg”, says Chris. For many, until now, waste has been a subsidiary consideration, so producers may not realise how much of the raw materials used in the manufacturing process end up in the bin. Wastefile UK’s first step is to identify ways of minimising this wastage, introducing systems and, in some cases, reducing it by up to 60 per cent.

“With our handle on new technologies in the waste industry, we are able to analyse the waste stream carefully and achieve further reductions by reusing and recycling”, states Chris. “And, of course, recovery and reuse of discarded products will be an increasingly important factor”.

Some of Wastefile UK’s larger clients are also gaining credibility with ethical investors and achieving socially responsible investment benchmarks such as FTSE 4 ‘good status’ by utilising the auditability offered by Wastefile UK’s purpose-designed IT system. Described by Chris as ‘the heart of our business’, the system allows Wastefile UK to track, monitor and store documents electronically for each of their 8,000 waste movements per week.

“Our investment in IT has played a crucial role in our success,” says Chris. “The need for information, whether for accountability, management of duty of care or the increasing need to analyse waste from production to disposal, has made our IT capability invaluable.”

The golden rule in waste management is that we must treat our waste materials in the same way as we treat our products. We must identify them, label them, containerise them, store them, dispatch them and keep records. But this is difficult for manufacturers to achieve in-house without additional investment, in time and expertise, into their waste management systems. That is where Wastefile UK’s services can be utilised.

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