Jump the dump

Posted on 4 Jan 2012

In November 2011 Crown Paints announced that its two UK manufacturing facilities had achieved targets to become zero waste to landfill. By the time this article is published, its 130 shops and decorating centres will also have attained this status. Jane Gray talks to Mark Lloyd, sustainability manager at Crown about why the company set out on the zero waste to landfill road and how it achieved so much ahead of schedule.

Setting out the timeline for Crown’s impressively swift achievement of the zero waste to landfill goal and explaining what kick-started the ambition Mr Lloyd tells TM, “October 2008 was the pivotal date for us as we were sold by AkzoNobel, the world’s largest paints and coatings company. AkzoNobel had previously been responsible for all our environmental objectives, but all of a sudden we were on our own and needed to be able to compete in the market place.”

Between Lloyd and his colleague Brian Widdop, Crown’s technical director, a number of objectives were plotted out which it was felt would help the newly independent company become less wasteful. Among these was the zero waste to landfill target which, as well as aligning with Crown’s overall anti waste agenda, would bring financial savings through avoiding escalating landfill taxes.

The scale of the challenge in front of Crown was considerable. In 2009, one year into the zero waste to landfill project, the company still sent a hefty 464 tonnes of waste to landfill.  Lloyd explains how the company focused its efforts to get this figure down, “We knew that our most difficult waste was our effluent. This was produced in large quantities whenever we washed our tanks. When we separated the paint residues from the water we were left with a dry effluent cake which represented a lot of tonnage.”

To give an idea of just how much effluent Crown were dealing with Lloyd states that each of Crown’s UK manufacturing sites, based in Darwen and Hull, produce around 40 million litres of paint each every year.

Setting the strategy

Formally documenting and tracking progress was essential to Crown’s success with its zero waste to landfill which is just a part of what became known in 2008 as the earthbalance programme. Lloyd explains, “It was important that everyone in the organisation was able to associate the various pieces of environmental work we now do with one coherent programme.”

Also central to success was the deliberate effort made to ensure that employees felt they had ownership and influence of waste reduction schemes. “Our first step was to communicate in workshops what the purpose of earthbalance was. We then built forums which asked for ideas on where waste could be reduced in all areas of the business.”

In the business climate at Crown after its sale by AkzoNobel Lloyd says employees leapt on the opportunity to take more control in designing and implementing environmental policy. “Every contribution in getting our waste down has been invaluable,” says Lloyd, including contributions from outside the organisation.

“We could never have achieved zero waste to landfill without the partnerships we forged,” says Lloyd. “We have asked most major recycling companies to suggest ways in which they could help us and have had a lot of audits at our sites. We have a good partnership with a company called Centrol who now take hold of our effluent and use it in anaerobic digestion.”

Another important partnership is with waste collection company CVA. “CVA has been very influential in allowing us to bring our shops down to zero waste to landfill,” says Lloyd. This was a challenge for Crown since its shops are widely dispersed and waste disposal had previously been locally contracted. “CVA now collects anything we cannot re-use or recycle at our shops and bring it back to a central hub in Darwen.”

Pacing yourself

Crown achieved zero waste to landfill at its manufacturing sites well ahead of its target of January 2012. But although progress has been swift Lloyd is careful to advise others not to expect big wins overnight. “Zero waste to landfill can be a big goal to go for,” says Lloyd. “First of all you need to take every step you can to reduce the amount of overall waste through re-using and recycling. It is important to acknowledge the little steps as well as the bigger ones.”

“We are targeting a 10% reduction in the overall carbon footprint by 2015.” Mark Lloyd, Sustainability Manager, Crown Paints.

To assist in this communication of triumphs large and small Crown elected champions at all of its sites who meet regularly in forums to discuss initiatives and share best practice. Waste segregation, investing in different waste receptacles, and creating a mind set among employees that waste needs to be segregated at source accelerated gains.

Other key steps on the road to zero waste to landfill have been achieved through employee suggestions to reduce the use of outsourced solvent cleaning. This has not only saved money but improved the manufacturing process. In another case, a suggested alteration to the purchasing process for tin plate used in packaging significantly reduced waste to landfill. “We were paying for tin plate to be printed and, if we over evaluated, then we would send the surplus to waste. One of our guys in the purchasing department looked into an improved method for ordering and he has eradicated the waste we used to see here.”

Creating a lighter tone to the waste reduction strategy Crown has also found small but visible ways to give something back to the areas of the business that have done most to collect and recycle plastics. An external partner turns collected plastics into park benches and “funky” street furniture, which are given back to the areas that donated the biggest contribution.

The next major hurdle for Crown will be the reduction of waste after sale. “There is a lot of waste paint out in the market with consumers and we are looking to combat that,” says Lloyd.

The bigger picture

On being asked why UK manufacturers should make a zero waste to landfill target a priority Lloyd responds, “Every time you turn on the news you hear more about the dire economic situation we are in at the moment. If manufacturers in the UK want to compete on a national and international stage they cannot afford to let any waste go unnoticed.”

A sign of how fully Crown believes this is the rigorous carbon footprinting it has undertaken. “I am not aware of any other paint company in the world which has fully carbon footprinted it whole portfolio,” comments Lloyd, going on to explain how this information about its products is shared internally on an intuitive earthbalance IT system. The information is essential in concentrating the efforts of environmental champions in areas where they can gain most benefit for the company. “We are targeting a 10% reduction in the overall carbon footprint by 2015,” states Lloyd.

So Crown is putting the pressure on itself with ambitious targets, but is government adding an unnecessary burden with environmental regulation? Lloyd is ambivalent, “We need an element of pressure,” he says. “Nobody wanted to see landfill taxes go up as they have but a lot of companies would probably still be wasting materials, supporting wasteful processes and damaging the environment without that tax.”

Steps to sustainability

A few tips on achieving zero waste to land fill:

  • Prioritise waste reduction by analysing the effect of the complete product range on the environment, from the raw materials through to the logistics in getting each product to its destination, and ultimately the end of the product’s life
  • Extend this understanding of waste and carbon hotspots. Partner with experts to map the carbon footprint  products throughout the supply chain. Consider base materials, packaging, manufacture, distribution and product use
  • Encourage all employees to reuse or recycle as much waste as possible throughout the business
  • For waste that cannot be traditionally recycled consider partnering with a contractor to compost waste after treatment and segregation or use technologies such as anaerobic digestion
  • Commit to the reduction of carbon-intensive raw materials. Crown has reduced consumption of solvents through the use of innovative low volatile organic compound (VOC) formulations.
  • Modify your manufacturing equipment. Crown installed timers to pumps, upgraded thermostatic controls and fitted L.E.D light systems to reduce electricity consumption by more than 10% and gas consumption by more than 15%