Sustainable Manufacturing Symposium Roundtable – Waste Elimination, Reduction and Recovery

Posted on 22 Jun 2021 by Lois Mackenzie

At the 2021 virtual Sustainable Manufacturing Symposium attendees heard from a wide range of industry experts sharing tips and tricks on how to make your business more sustainable. Key topic discussions included how to achieve net zero and employee engagement.

One such discussion on ‘Waste Elimination and Recovery’, was no exception as attendees were given practical measures on how to reduce waste in their businesses and become more sustainable.

The panel discussion was hosted by Nigel Davis, Director of Technical and Sustainability at Muntons, Ben Goodare, Head of Corporate Responsibility and Trade Compliance at Renishaw, and Richard Hagan, Managing Director at Crystal Doors.

Key elements of a successful sustainable waste management project

Discussion began by pin pointing strategies for successful and long-lasting waste management projects. Three key areas were discussed, engagement; data management and monetising waste.


Engagement is a vital element to making lasting sustainable change as everyone must be on board and willing to do things differently. It must be fluid throughout departments as each area of a business contributes to waste in differing ways.

Engagement must also be carried out with suppliers across the supply chain in order to acknowledge and deal with any waste that may occur.

Data Management

To have a successful waste management programme businesses must have an understanding of the where, how and why of waste in their operations. Where is the waste coming from? How much waste is there? Why is waste accumulating in the first place? Having functional data management in place can help address these vital questions.

Monetising Waste

Finally, panellists discussed investigating ways in which you can make money from waste. Businesses can struggle to develop clear strategies for waste management and struggle to understand what to do with by-products but there are many ways to turn waste into cash – from selling scrap metal to recycling plants to reusing raw materials and reducing costs in your next production cycle.


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What pitfalls should manufacturers avoid?

Don’t expect immediate responses from government agencies

When beginning your journey, you may wish to tackle things immediately, but panelists stressed the need to be patient when making requests from government agencies such as the Environment Agency. The Agency is interested in new projects but with limited resources you should not expect an immediate response.

Don’t delay your projects

Panelists stressed a major pitfall is waiting too long to start. The government is increasingly putting pressure on businesses to reduce waste with penalisations, such as landfill tax. And with environmental concerns paramount, including the UK hosting of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) in Autumn 2021 these will only increase, costing you more money and eventually your resilience to change will start to reduce.

The process of change is evolutionary not revolutionary but by putting changes off you are ultimately hindering your business. In discussion it was noted that a major toothpaste manufacturer has taken four years to manufacture a recyclable toothpaste tube. For other organisations, change can take twice as long as that.

Resistance to Change

Overcoming resistance to change within an organisation is paramount and business leaders should identify sustainability champions within their business to lead the necessary changes.

Closing Thoughts

In closing, the discussion centred on how to carry on reducing waste after it has left the business. The main point raised was to incentivise it. Programmes that encourage customers to return items to exchange or recycle old products for a discount all have high rates of encouraging a reduction in waste after it has left the business.

These incentives also help to educate people who otherwise may not have known or invested their time in sustainability. By encouraging consumers to do their part and return/exchange old items they become aware of the effects of consumption and feel like that are doing their part to make a greener society.

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