The automarker says the facilities — located in Dearborn, Michigan, Oakville, Ontario, and Santa Fe, Mexico — divert more than 240,000 pounds of waste from landfills annually. Ford has set a goal to trim global waste to landfill by 40 percent on a per vehicle basis between 2011 and 2016.
The push toward achieving landfill-free status began more than a year ago at each of the North American headquarters. Ford instructed its employees to separate waste and recycle when possible. In its other efforts to reduce waste produced per unit of production: in Mexico, food waste is used as compost; US and Canadian headquarters send refuse to waste-to-energy facilities. Additionally site managers utilized more environmentally sustainable packaging and food containers in cafeterias.
Jeffrey Czich, environmental engineer at Ford, says the automaker also partnered with waste management firms at each location to reduce its waste, working with Heritage Interactive Services in Dearborn, Veolia at its Canadian headquarters and GEN at its Santa Fe general office building. “We use the Global Emissions Manager (GEM) software program to track our waste management activities, including ZWTLF [zero waste to landfill] initiatives,” Czich says.
Ford won’t disclose any financial information about how much it cost to implement these waste management programs and achieve zero waste. The company also plays coy when asked how much money it expects to save from being landfill-free: “Ford pursues ZWTLF as an important component of being a green and sustainable company,” Czich says. “We measure the success to Ford and the environment by the amount of waste diverted from landfills. The reduction of future liabilities that result from landfilled wastes is an additional benefit resulting from ZWTLF initiatives.”
Other companies are more forthcoming about the financial benefits of achieving zero waste, including reduced transportation and waste hauling costs, less money spent on unnecessary packaging, and new revenue generated from recycling. Unilever North America, for example, which achieved 100 percent zero-waste-to-landfill at all dedicated distribution centers in North America last year, said zero waste resulted in cost savings of more than $1.9 million in 2013.
And fellow automaker General Motors has made progress in its efforts to become a zero waste manufacturer by turning byproducts such as polystyrene foam packaging into footwear. GM currently has 131 landfill-free sites globally and has set a goal to grow that number to 150 by 2020.
Ford is, however, willing to give advice and share its lessons learned with other companies that want to go landfill free. Czich offers the following tips:
- Obtain management support for your program.
- Establish a robust metrics program to track zero waste to landfill progress and implementation. This is key to the success of a zero waste to landfill program for both tracking and accountability.
- Partner with waste management suppliers to help you meet your objectives.
- Don’t try to find non-landfill management methods for all waste streams at once. Target the high volume waste streams first. Continue the process finding non-landfill management methods for the other waste streams until the facility is zero waste to landfill.
- Share your successes with all employees as a way to engage them in the zero waste to landfill process.