One of Johnson Matthey’s six sustainability targets is to achieve zero waste to landfill by 2017. The task is devolved to the individual sites around the world, who are coming up with ingenious and entrepreneurial ways of finding new uses for waste materials that once ended up in landfill...

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The manufacturing industry, by its very nature, creates waste. A part of the waste may be reduced by improved processes on the site but some will always remain. So the art of waste reduction is to find a new use for the waste – and if it has economic or environmental benefits, so much the better.

Clever Waste Reduction in Edinburgh

Johnson Matthey's active pharmaceutical material manufacturing business in Edinburgh, UK identified an alternative use for an industrial mineral known as harborlite, which is used as a filter aid in some of its manufacturing processes. In 2011/12, the site sent 122 tonnes of waste to landfill, much of it in the form of spent filter aid. Could it be used for something else? One idea was to use this waste directly as a soil conditioner, but this yielded only limited benefit.

Then a compost manufacturer was contacted and trials were undertaken, and the waste filter aid was found to be of benefit to their product. The compost containing the filter aid is sold to landscapers, local authorities and the construction industry. Importantly, implementing this recycling route allowed the site to reduce its waste to landfill to an estimated just 26 tonnes in 2012/13 – a reduction of 78%.

Meanwhile in Japan...

On the other side of the world, at its Kitsuregawa site in Japan, Johnson Matthey's Japanese emission control technologies business had levels of waste to landfill amounting to around five tonnes in 2011/12. There were two main contributor sources of waste. The first was the powder from the production dust collector (a device that traps dust during the powder transfer process); the second was plastic waste.

The site explored disposal options for the powder waste though approaching the construction industry. The powder can be used as filler for concrete manufacture. By working in partnership with a new waste contractor, the site can report that 100% of this powder is being reused from 2013.

Plastic waste disposal was a more complex problem to resolve due to the different types and grades of plastic. The site has put in place agreements with contractors who specialise in plastic recycling. The result is that 100% of plastic waste materials are now recycled.

Landfill waste at the Kitsuregawa site stands at an all time low of less than 1 tonne in 2012/13. Only of a small amount of waste – in the form of glass wool mats – goes to landfill, and a suitable recycling contractor for the mat is being sought. But with only 0.5% of total waste disposed to landfill, the target of zero waste for landfill is within striking distance.

These initiatives make a substantial contribution to Johnson Matthey's sustainability goals and show how, with creativity, we can take steps towards achieving zero waster to landfill – where waste from a speciality chemicals manufacturing factory can form the compost of a flower bed or the concrete in a new building.