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Almost Zero Waste to Landfill on Finland Site

Zero Waste to LF, Finland

Inspired by the Sustainability 2017 Vision, Johnson Matthey Finland has taken on the goal of achieving zero waste to landfill and has – very nearly – met that target some six years ahead of the deadline, thanks to a series of well executed strategies.

Despite sorting waste for many years, Johnson Matthey Finland knew there was room for improvement. The business went back to first principles and identified the different types of waste it generated, how it was being disposed of and the potential for improvement. Could its approach to waste sorting be enhanced? Could the business reuse any of its own waste? Could anything be used as raw material by someone else?

Waste was defined in ten separate categories, including solid hazardous waste, paper, packaging material, burnable waste, organic waste solvent, waste water, glass and metal ware. The amount of waste in each category was set out and an end use described. This helped clarify best practice – sometimes already in place – and identified the need to find the right partner for waste disposal in certain categories.

Some of the solutions were simple but make a real contribution. Paper and paper board is now collected by the waste disposal supplier whenever the waste containers are full rather than on a weekly or monthly basis. This ‘as and when’ approach means that money is not wasted on unnecessary collections and that less transport is used: a financial and environmental benefit at the same time.

Other solutions were more complex. Not everyone agrees with the incineration of waste, but the business believes that this is the best way to treat solid hazardous waste. It has partnered with Finnish company Ekokem, located in Riihimäki, which has a progressive record in waste management, with incineration procedures that can convert 72% of waste into energy. The energy is then used locally for district heating in the city of Riihimäki.

Plastic materials (such as bags and cisterns), wood based waste, disposable dishes and paper towels are all sent for incineration, using the leading Finnish provider of recycling services. Most of this waste is used to provide energy for the city of Turku, where Johnson Matthey Finland has its site.

Other parts of the campaign involved internal solutions. A project was set up to reduce the amount of hazardous liquid waste generated and as part of this, the site has substituted a C6 hydrocarbon with aqueous ethanol – offering health and safety benefits, as well as financial savings. In other categories of waste, wooden pallets and shipping materials, such as bubble wrap or plastic chips, are reused if they are non-contaminated. Printing cartridges are returned to the manufacturer for refilling, and scrap metal and glass are sent for recycling.

Employees have played a key part and have been eager to take responsibility and show commitment. They have also helped find suitable partners in waste disposal.

The site’s ‘return, reduce, reuse and recycle’ activities mean that only 0.01% of waste now goes to landfill. Projects are planned to tackle the outstanding waste – which includes vials made of glass and metal, used in chemical analysis – and improve current practice, such as recycling more of the plastic.

The environmental benefits are impressive. Burnable waste becomes energy; recycling saves on the use of freshly produced raw material; and the avoidance of landfill helps reduce methane emissions (in Finland 3% of greenhouse gases originate from landfill). Finally, there are financial gains all round, not least because sending waste to landfill costs 15% more than sorting it and reusing it.