Focus, Manufacturing, and Sustainability

Haworths zerowastetolandfill strategy pays off

September 9, 2012
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Earlier this year, Haworth Inc. reached a sustainability zenith.

Its Portugal manufacturing sites in Queluz and Áqueda achieved zero-waste-to-landfill, bringing to fruition a key green initiative and completing Haworth Europe’s zero-waste-to-landfill initiative.

Other ecological milestones had been reached when Haworth sectors in North America and Asia Pacific achieved zero-to-waste-landfill status in 2009, and its plants in Shanghai, China and Puna, India, did the same in 2008.

The office furniture manufacturer attributes ISO 14001 environmental management systems and lean manufacturing strategies and tools for generating new ideas to help achieve zero-waste-to-landfill.

Since Hayworth’s corporate headquarters launched its waste recycling center in 1993, more than 206,000 tons of waste have been recycled.

The end result is a bit like a prearranged marriage with commercial and ecological consequences, said Steve Kooy, Haworth’s global sustainability manager.

“I honestly can say when it went global that our waste became someone else’s treasure and we became a matchmaker,” said Kooy.

“At the end of the day, we’re still a business continuing to run a profitable business, and that means we also think about the finances involved.”

So convinced is Haworth of achieving zero-waste-to-landfill that it is working with Organic Workspaces, Fabricators and Manufacturers Association International and Green Manufacturer Network of Rockford, Ill., to host a Green Manufacturer Network’s Zero-Waste-to-Landfill Workshop Oct. 24 at Haworth’s headquarters, 1 Haworth Center, Holland. Cost to attend is $295; $125 for Green Manufacturer Network members. Register by calling (888) 394-4362 or visit www.greenmanufacturer.net/event/Zero-Waste-to-Landfill-Challenge

Zero-waste-to-landfill is an ambitious undertaking that ultimately takes into account everything from what’s done with the wax paper once employees are done eating their sandwiches in the break room to using recycling bins for materials at work stations and changing to recyclable packaging for parts.

On one level, it harkens to the three R’s of sustainability: reduce, reuse and recycle.

“The zero-waste-to-landfill was a place for us to start, just like it’s the basement of the building where you start building,” said Bill Gurn, Haworth’s facilities maintenance manager. “Burying stuff in the ground (in a landfill) rather than finding another application for it is what we want to avoid.

“Our objective is to reduce, reuse and recycle and find another purpose for it. The last thing we want to do is bury it in the ground and hope 30 years from now it makes methane gas. Our position is to find homes for all of this stuff first.”

Zero-waste-to-landfill is gaining wider acceptance. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, waste-to-landfill disposal has decreased from 89 percent to 54 percent over the last 30 years.

Haworth staunchly believes zero-waste-to-landfill measures make it a good corporate steward of the earth’s resources, said Kooy.

But implementing green policies requires corporations to look within while dealing with other areas beyond their normal scope of influence.

“It’s suppliers willing to think of new ideas and new opportunities to take a waste stream and move it to another business and make something else,” said Kooy.

“Zero waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources, and not burn or bury them,” said Gurn.

“Implementing zero waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.”

Haworth, Gurn added, ascribes to a set of priorities that includes valuing the world, as well as its employees, clients and stakeholders.

“There’s so much to do, from product design to social reasonability,” said Gurn. “As we looked around, we all collectively thought this is a great opportunity to support our major objectives, which aligned very well with our values and with our sustainability strategy.

“We are still a manufacturer of furniture, but you can’t have a green product coming out of a brown manufacturer.”

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