Experts in sustainability, quality assurance, and continuous improvement frequently use the phrase “waste.” In every use case, the intention is to attempt and eradicate it, but what exactly should be eliminated? Different departments have different ideas on what constitutes “trash.” The distinctions and areas of overlap between them are discussed in this article.

Industrial activities produce waste, deplete resources, and damage the atmospheric and aquatic habitats. Additionally, company executives are experiencing unprecedented pressure from their stakeholders to take action. Consumers are now willing to pay extra for sustainable products, which spurs company initiatives to enhance operational procedures.

All of this helps to expand sustainability departments and rearrange project objectives according to environmental standards. This is difficult since the field is still developing, there is a dearth of information, the laws are complicated, and there are many different standards. The situation is occasionally so perplexing that different firm departments do not share the same terminology.

Three Ways of Looking at Waste

We have found three entirely different ways to define the term “waste”:

  1. Waste to landfill (trash) is a term used by managers of ESG or sustainability.
  2. Waste in terms of LEAN manufacturing techniques.
  3. GREEN manufacturing concepts for waste (Energy, Water, Materials, Garbage, Transportation, Emissions, and Biodiversity).

Why has a single, straightforward concept developed three distinct meanings? It depends on who you ask, is the short answer.

Waste to landfill

Waste is one of the important KPIs that sustainability managers use to gauge the effectiveness of CSR or ESG policies at their organizations. All the materials left over after the creation of goods are referred to in this context as trash. After that, waste is further inspected to determine how much of it is recycled, put to use, or dumped in landfills (waste to landfill).

Manufacturers depend on this “waste to landfill” figure for a number of reasons:

  • Manufacturing facilities frequently handle numerous materials in huge numbers, including plastic, wood, paper, and fabrics.
  • Manufacturers are required to pay for the waste they generate, and the cost varies depending on the type of waste (e.g., sorted recyclables vs. non-recyclable materials).
  • This measure can affect the company’s taxes and frequently needs to be known to the local Environmental Protection agency.

Landfilling is the least preferred option and should only be used when absolutely required, according to the EU’s waste hierarchy. This relates to how many greenhouse gases each activity emits.

Corporate sustainability objectives are frequently based on waste reduction targets because the amount of waste delivered to landfills directly affects the company’s carbon footprint. They include initiatives like recycling campaigns, packaging reductions, and material waste eradication.

Waste according to LEAN manufacturing principles

By reducing waste, LEAN production seeks to maximize resource use.

According to the LEAN methodology, waste is any activity taking place in the facility that adds no value, such as:

  • waiting,
  • excess processing,
  • overproduction,
  • movement,
  • faults,
  • transportation.

Although there are occasionally environmental advantages to getting rid of these trash, it’s an indirect association that is challenging to quantify. For instance, if a food producer doesn’t do the required quality checks, products are loaded onto trucks and transferred to a warehouse, where the error is found (movement). The item needs to be returned (transportation), and it might already be past its expiration date (defect).

It would be clear to any company’s sustainability manager why it would be better for the environment to prevent errors like these. However, additional computations would be necessary to obtain CO2e (carbon footprint equivalent) for each activity in order to properly compare and analyze these LEAN indicators (movement, transportation, and defect in this example).

A given amount of CO2e is produced for each mile traveled in a particular mode of transportation with a particular fuel usage. Each kilogram of defective food can be converted into a certain CO2e amount depending on where it ends up (landfill, food for feedstock, biodegradable waste, etc.).

Then, in order to lessen the operations’ impact on the environment, all of these activities would be compared and studied to determine which activity has to be worked on first.

GREEN manufacturing concepts for waste

A manufacturing process known as “green manufacturing” reduces waste and pollution. Waste, however, has a different meaning in GREEN than it does in the first two definitions we looked at.

The maker examines things from the standpoint of the environment rather than the viewpoint of the customer. The following are the seven “green” wastes:

  • energy
  • water
  • materials
  • garbage
  • transportation
  • emissions
  • biodiversity.

It is possible to locate any environmental impact that exists within the value stream by comparing these wastes to the company’s value stream. The improvement process, a specific waste elimination procedure that leads to decreased costs, greater value, and competitiveness, is then built upon this.

The process of improvement is identical to any process using the LEAN methodology because it’s:

  • a methodical approach to achieving a goal;
  • an attempt to create a measurable baseline;
  • a waste-reduction strategy that is data-driven.

In order to decrease both inefficiencies and environmental effect, it is therefore determined that the two strategies—LEAN and GREEN—can be combined and provided at the same time in operation management. By assisting you in tracking and visualizing data on your electricity usage, lowering the number of products that are scrapped, and lowering the carbon footprint per item, our modules can assist you in moving toward green manufacturing.