Achieving zero waste to landfill status
Akanksha Sharma, Head-Sustainability & CSR, Sterlite Technologies reveals the company’s green manufacturing practices- By-line: Swati Deshpande
Please tell us about your Zero Waste to Landfills efforts.
At Sterlite Technologies (STL) we always aim to operate in a way where all our business activities are in synergy with the environment we operate in. Waste management is one of the most fundamental ways we drive this. Any process waste is considered a lost opportunity in converting raw materials into finished products. As a result, none of our manufacturing facilities discharge any liquid effluent outside plant boundaries. All waste water is recycled and reused in our process post treatment. Similarly, the organization is committed to eliminating scrap in processes thus ensuring zero waste goes to landfills across all of its manufacturing units. Byproducts generated during the manufacturing process are also diverted to other industries that reuse them as raw materials.
Shortly after STL’s optical fibre cable manufacturing plant in Rakholi received Intertek’s global certification for being Zero Waste to Landfill compliant, the company has successfully replicated the best practices pertaining to waste management across its other manufacturing locations. This resulted in our Dadra manufacturing facility also recently being certified as ‘Zero Waste to Landfill’, while our Waluj facility is a ‘Near Zero Waste to Landfill’ facility diverting over 97% waste away from landfills.
Some the initiatives replicated include initiating co-processing of optic fibre waste at Waluj. Co-processing of not just optic fibre and optic fibre cables waste, but also low smoke zero halogen (LSZH) at cement manufacturing plants has been one of the major reasons for achieving this benchmark.
What are the different steps that you have taken to achieve this status?
We began the waste management journey by engaging Intertek, a global Total Quality Assurance provider to audit our processes and waste management mechanism at each of our manufacturing locations. The audit helped us validate our practices against globally recognized norms as well as identified areas for development. This not only enabled us in achieving waste reduction and thus cost savings, but also unlocked several efficiencies in manufacturing.
Verification of waste disposal and ensuring 100% compliance at the waste buyers’ end. The fate of the waste we generated and compliance to waste management regulations had to be checked and audited at every waste buyer’s facility. We worked together with other internal functions to ensure that each buyer was visited for having their facilities audited and to understand their management practices. A thorough review of all documentation and processes was done. This helped us trace all waste categories and how each of them was being recycled. Many types of waste bought from us were sold to other users on demand basis in the form they were procured from us and this exercise helped us prevent this from recurring.
In order to explore landfill diversion opportunities, the team interacted with several recycling facilities and industries. Used oil, contaminated plastic containers and spent solvent which were earlier going to landfill were diverted away from landfill and recycled at authorized facilities. Even the byproducts generated during the manufacturing process are diverted to other industries who use them either as raw material or for their manufacturing process.
We even benchmarked ourselves against global waste management standards and collaborated with other industries to implement our strategy of
1. Reducing waste generation at source, complimented with rigorous tracking, monitoring & corrective actions wherever required such as manufacturing efficiencies, reducing rejects and quality control among others.
2. Segregation, classification and categorization of waste to avoid contamination and maintain recyclability. (Segregation at source, dedicated and appropriate storage facilities preventing leakage and spillage.)
3. Priority to re-use and recycle waste over landfills and incineration such as decontamination of containers
4. Ensuring legal compliance of waste management rules in accordance of both Indian and global regulations.
The zero waste to landfill journey has been a great starting point that has enabled us to continually improve our waste management process. It aided us in setting a new baseline on waste grading, driving implementation of data collection and internal processes that is ultimately helping us move towards a more circular use of resources.
Improvements, replication of processes across units and other strategies in place, we are now on course to divert at least 99% of waste away from landfills and achieve our goal. We are committed to responsible and clean manufacturing practices that we believe will eventually establish positive change in society as well as transition to a circular economy from a linear one.
What are the other initiatives that the company’s plants are taking towards green manufacturing?
STL believes in taking complete responsibility for operations across our entire value chain and not only manufacturing. We hence focus on innovation that helps us reduce our environmental footprint right from sourcing to designing green products, manufacturing responsibly and even for transportation to our customers and ultimately the user. To us, what we take in the form of natural resources, our raw materials; how and what we make in terms of the quality and durability of our products; and what we waste, are in fact all a question of ethics. Thus, as a global business, we ensure that we not only facilitate sustainable and responsible sourcing and manufacturing, but also work towards mitigating global issues and conserving the environment we operate in.
Hence for us, being an environmentally responsible company begins with how you source your raw material and other components. We ensure all our suppliers are complaint to stringent human rights practices, source the raw material sustainably and conduct their operations in an eco-friendly manner. We do this by critically evaluating each of our suppliers on adherence to robust procurement policies, which guarantees full compliance from our suppliers on set regulations. Checks such as lab test reports and declarations among others form part of the procurement process.
Over the last few years, we have intensified our commitment to develop and partner with promising suppliers around our manufacturing facilities for continued improvement. We have developed a vendor selection process, which prioritizes environmental and societal aspects and regularly monitors each of our suppliers. This ensures that each of our partners operate according to the UNGC Network principles, which we abide by. We have been working with them to develop similar quality materials, thus creating alternative sourcing, as well as reducing the procurement distance. This collaboration allows us to share the financial value created with our partners as well as contributes to the economic development of the region.
The next step is ensuring we design products that are best-in-class and highly durable while utilising minimum resources. Being a customer-focussed organization our objective is to provide high-quality products and services that do not just meet but exceed our clients’ expectations as well as the experience of the end user. However, while doing so, equal importance is given to reducing the environmental impact the product will have at every stage, right from raw material extraction, to manufacturing, use and its eventual end-of-life. By substituting the materials we use for our products, using innovative designs and light weighting among other approaches, we have incorporated lifecycle thinking into our products right at the development phase.
Once products are manufactured, transporting them safely and using packaging material that will have minimal influence on the environment is important. We thus use GPS systems and dedicated personnel to transport these materials ensuring there are no unwarranted stops made while being transported to the customer.
Lastly, through our Zero Waste to Landfill initiative we are working to warrant that the waste we generate through our manufacturing processes is diverted away from landfills which is a major contributor to climate change. At the company’s Dadra manufacturing unit waste vendors have been reduced by 73% ensuring that all waste is sold only to 100% authorized buyers who meet with STL’s stringent waste management and disclosure norms.
By reducing and reusing packagaing material, over 5300 MT of carbon emissions have been reduced. Recycling and refurbishing of wooden packaging has helped save more than 8000 fully grown trees. In FY 18-19, 36,300 MT of waste was diverted away from landfills.
Are there any steps that you plan to take in 2020 to make manufacturing sustainable?
Absolutely. But again it’s not just manufacturing. It’s more about driving cleaner, greener and leaner operations across STL’s value chain.
We are working on having a life cycle assessment done for our products. This will help us tremendously with identifying the precise areas where modifications are needed to drive eco-friendly processes as well as reorganize them in a way that reduces our environmental footprint.
Water positivity and carbon neutrality are another two areas we are actively working not just within our premises, but also in the community to drive mindset and actual change.
Lastly, we are also working on promoting a Circular Economy for creating cumulative value for the ecosystem. Our facilities are largely Zero Waste to Landfill certified as we divert over 99% of our waste away from landfills. This not only reduces a significant amount of carbon emissions generated from landfills, but also promotes a circular economy.