Don't waste it

Recycling

Industrialized economies produce enormous amounts of waste – and getting rid of it is becoming an increasing burden. Households generate a notable proportion of waste emissions, but the really frightening figures come from industry. Large corporations all over the world have already taken action, and there are some good examples in Hungary too.

Several solutions that have been drawn up to tackle the problem of polluting our environment. In the waste disposal hierarchy, the three Rs rule: reduce, reuse, and recycle. At the bottom of the pyramid are landfills and waste burning, the worst possible solutions. In several Western European countries and in the US, an increasing number of companies and communities are putting the emphasis on prevention and focus on waste minimization, but recycling remains a booming business all over the world, with Hungary no exception.

However, the ultimate goal should be to send no waste at all to landfills – a policy commonly known as zero waste. On a global level, companies from nearly all industries have seen significant savings by implementing it: for example, General Motors saved $2.5 billion on recycling over a four-year period, while Walmart has reduced the money spent on sending waste to landfills by more than 80% in one US state alone. In Hungary, the first steps have already been taken towards zero waste – the Budapest Business Journal presents four large manufacturers and processing companies that are well on the way to implementing the policy.

 

Audi Hungaria Motor Kft: Aiming at 100% recycling

 

Audi Hungaria produces an average of 45,000-50,000 tons of waste annually, depending on production output – in 2010, for example, this amount was nearly 51,000 tons. The majority of the waste is non-hazardous, coming from manufacturing processes. In 2010, the share of hazardous waste, such as emulsion fluid and sodium hydroxide, was 28%. Selective waste collection is a basic policy at the company. It spends several millions of euros a year on waste management, but it generates notable income from recycling. “Income exceeds expenses, thus the area of waste management at Audi is profitable,” the company’s press department told the BBJ. Nearly 99% (in 2010, this number was 98.75%) of waste is recycled, but Audi is also aspiring to reduce its waste emissions, the company said. In order to achieve this, it has invested in several technological optimization projects. “It is very important to plan technologies in a way that processes take place in a closed system, thus reducing the amount of waste during the production process,” Audi said. Also, the company aims to recycle in the strictest sense: producing a fresh supply of the same material. In the long run, Audi wants to achieve a 100% recycling rate. “In addition, we continue to work on our waste reduction policy as well,” the company said.

 

Jabil Circuit Magyarország Kft: Less waste to landfills

 

In spite of the company’s efforts, waste emission at electronics manufacturing services company Jabil Circuit has shown a rising trend in the last few years (2,557 tons in 2009 and 3,212 tons in 2010, approximately 25% year-on-year growth). The company attributes the figures to the high number of staff (approximately 6,000 full-time employees in 2010) and the increase in production volume. The company did not wish to disclose the amount it spends on waste management, but said that it watches closely the costs related to it and frequently announces tenders seeking more effective services. Jabil prefers recycling over landfills and burning: in 2009, it recycled 67% of all its waste, dumped 31% in landfills and burned 2%. Last year, the recycling ratio reached 85%, with 13% going to landfills and the same 2% burned. “We aimed to increase our recycling rate by five percentage points on a year-on-year basis, but we ended up lifting it by 18 after all,” Jabil’s environmental expert told the BBJ. According to the spokesperson, having the waste sent to landfills or burned is still more cost-efficient than recycling, but the company is committed to further increasing its recycling rate. Besides trying to find the best solutions to handle its industrial waste, Jabil also aims to raise awareness of environmental protection issues among its employees. It provides training on selective waste management, and besides implementing a selective waste program at the company, other actions have been taken as well, such as replacing plastic cups with metal mugs.

 

Coca-Cola Magyarország: Where waste is valued

 

The waste output at the plants of Coca-Cola Magyarország reaches 5,000 tons a year, mostly consisting of packaging materials. The company’s goal is to recycle the largest possible amount of the generated waste: currently, the recycling ratio at the plants is nearly 90%. The company spends more than HUF 100 million on recollecting PET bottles, and it also supports selective waste management on a national level, Éda Pogány, communications director of Coca-Cola Magyarország told the BBJ. According to her, more than 30% of the company’s PET bottles are recollected and recycled. The firm plans to spend approximately HUF 700 million on its entire waste management program in 2011. “At the Coca-Cola plants, waste is value,” Pogány said, adding that the recycling rate was 50-60% ten years ago. “Besides recycling, the most obvious way of reducing environmental pollution is the use of less packaging material,” she explained. Accordingly, the company has reduced the weight of its bottles. It produces the same amount of packaging from 730 tons less plastic a year, resulting in savings equal to the weight of 20 million bottles a year. “We are committed to go on with using less raw material, and want to achieve a 100% recycling ratio,” Pogány said. “Just by selective waste collection and recycling, we can save tens millions of forints a year. With our weight reduction program, savings at a yearly level can be several hundred million forints,” she added.

 

Gallicoop Zrt: Slaughterhouse waste no more

 

Poultry processing company Gallicoop generates about 17,000 tons of waste from the slaughtering process. Most recently, Germany’s r.e Bioenergie GmbH has opened a biogas plant in the vicinity of the Gallicoop plant in Szarvas, where the biomass coming from the poultry processor will be turned into biogas. Before the cooperation with the biogas plant, Gallicoop spent some HUF 110 million a year on having its slaughterhouse waste taken away. Now, as a result of the cooperation (which will also provide cold and hot energy for the processing plant), it saves HUF 150 million a year, István Erdélyi, CEO of Gallicoop told the BBJ. The plant employs 900 people, therefore the amount of communal waste cannot be significantly reduced, but Gallicoop has recently started to operate its own biological wastewater cleaning plant.

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