How Raytheon Pursues Zero Waste Certification for Facilities

(Photo: A Raytheon facility in Woburn, Massachusetts, that received TRUE Zero Waste certification. Credit: Raytheon)

by | Dec 6, 2019

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Nancy Kitsos RaytheonRaytheon’s 2020 sustainability goals include two targeting solid waste. The technology company, which specializes in defense, civil government, and cybersecurity, aims to increase its solid waste diversion rate and obtain TRUE (Total Resource Use and Efficiency) Zero Waste certification at 20 sites by the end of next year.

Certification through GBCI’s program requires facilities to reach a waste diversion rate higher than 90% and score at least 31 out of 81 points for steps like developing systems that emphasize reuse, and working with vendors to eliminate non-recyclable packaging.

“It’s been very valuable to us,” says Nancy Kitsos, corporate senior manager of EHS and sustainability for Raytheon. A 22-year veteran of the company, she leads their environmental team and helps run the sustainability team.

Recently we caught up with Kitsos to learn more about Raytheon’s zero waste strategy for facilities.

Why is Raytheon pursuing TRUE Zero Waste certification for facilities?

That framework has helped us get to the next level. It’s a whole systems approach that looks at how to reduce waste before it becomes a waste, reusing materials, redesigning processes, and engaging with suppliers and upstream.

How are you currently doing in relation to your waste goals?

Really well. For certification, we’ve got 15 to date and only five more to go. I’m proud that we were the first aerospace and defense company to get one of these certifications, and that was in Tewksbury, Massachusetts. We have certified sites in Massachusetts, California, Texas, Arkansas, Rhode Island, New Mexico, and Indiana.

The diversion rate goal is 82%, and we already met that at the end of 2018 — two years ahead of schedule. We report annually at the end of the year so you’ll have to stay tuned for our 2019 rate, but it’s higher than last year.

What steps are you taking to eliminate waste at facilities?

We’re tackling this at the company level and the site level. At the company level, I formed a zero waste team with all the reps from the sites. The first thing we did is get trained in the TRUE certification program. We also have frequent calls, share best practices, and developed a roadmap of what we need to do to increase our diversion rate and get sites certified.

Many sites are conducting recycling and waste audits, examining what wastes are ending up in the trash and the recycling containers inside the plant as well as outside in dumpsters and rolloffs.

Then what happens?

We analyze the data and come up with a list of possible improvements. They can be as simple as better labeling of the containers, even photos of the types of things that can go in each one. Single stream recycling is easier. It varies from site to site.

Even the placement of the containers comes out in these audits. Are you putting the recycling bins in conference rooms, or are water bottles and aluminum cans ending up in the trash can?

Are there other steps you’re taking?

We’re trying to reuse cardboard boxes, wooden pallets, shop rags, and lab coats. Instead of throwing out oily shop rags, we get them laundered. They come back nice and clean, and we use them again.

Another example is packaging material. We get a lot of foam peanuts and cardboard coming into our shipping and receiving departments. The pack and ship team takes it out, puts it aside, and reuses it in outbound shipments, where possible.

Similarly we’re trying to expand the use of reusable containers to move parts or kits around our manufacturing floor, and where we’re sending things back and forth between two Raytheon sites or between Raytheon and a particular supplier. Reusable shipping containers are a little higher up-front cost, but in the long run it does save money.

What are the main advantages for Raytheon when you avoid waste?

It conserves natural resources and protects the environment so it’s aligned with the goals of our sustainability program. There are also financial savings. We are getting money back from recycling, particularly metals, somewhere on the order of $2 million to $3 million a year. Besides that, zero waste lowers disposal costs because shipping a bin or rolloff of recyclables is usually less than trash.

We’ve been examining our waste contracts and the frequency of pickups. At some sites, especially ones that have healthy recycling and reduction efforts, the trash pickup was too frequent. The rolloff was half full, but we were charged the full price each time the hauler came out.

Reuse saves material costs. If you’re reusing a container or packaging material, you’re buying less. When we went to double-sided printing years ago, our paper spend was cut.

What have been the biggest challenges so far?

Segregation of waste and recycling is an ongoing problem. One thing we’re finding is that what’s recyclable at home may not be the same as what’s recyclable at work.

A second challenge is that the recycling markets are changing domestically and internationally. Some commodities we used to send to recyclers are no longer accepted, Styrofoam being one of them. Vendors are getting stricter about how clean the streams need to be. That’s a struggle.

How are you addressing these issues?

We’re monitoring changes in the market because we want to jump on opportunities. We’re involved in an upcycling program called RightCycle for nitrile gloves. We use them in a lot of our labs and clean rooms. We send gloves to the Kimberly-Clark program, and they melt them down into pellets that are made into park benches and playground equipment.

A lot of our sites have composting, but it’s not available in all locations. One of our sites in Indiana didn’t have it so they decided to do onsite composting. They have a big piece of property, and the person who drove this was just a good gardener who likes worms. They take kitchen waste along with coffee grounds to a big pile in the back, it turns to mulch, and they use it for landscaping. Talk about a closed-loop circular economy.

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