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Feature Story

Kurt Bayer separating and recycling liquid hazardous oil waste

Marian Lockhart photo

Kurt Bayer is part of a team that's making a difference and driving environmental gains at the Renton, Wash., site by separating and recycling liquid hazardous oil waste generated by machines and vehicles.

Oil change

How engaged employees drove environmental gains at Boeing's 737 factory

Boeing’s five-year target of reducing hazardous waste disposal spurred employees at Boeing’s jet-making plant in Renton, Wash., to reduce oil waste. And they did it with a “twist.”

A group of Renton employees formed The Waste Information Sharing Team (TWIST) to lead the effort. After analyzing disposal processes and finding ways to isolate recyclable oil in a safe, efficient manner, the team has reduced hazardous waste oil disposal by 97 percent.

"Everyone in the area wanted to be involved in this process, and that made it successful."

In 2007, environmental leaders at the site began looking into ways to recycle the approximately 171,500 pounds of liquid hazardous waste generated each year by machines and vehicles around the plant.

It is on track to recycle more than 100,000 pounds of oil and oily water during the calendar year; during the first half of 2010, the site had to dispose of only 2,270 pounds of liquid hazardous waste oil.

TWIST team member Kurt Bayer said the idea for separating out recyclable materials had been percolating for some time, and that the success of the oil waste reduction program is truly a group effort. “Everyone in the area wanted to be involved in the push to reduce oil waste and that made it successful.”

The team received input from employees throughout the plant. “One of our co-workers designed an ergonomic cart that made it much easier to collect the material, and also gave us a place to store things like filters, latex gloves and rags,” Bayer said. “Rather than tilting like a moving dolly, it is pushed like a mail cart. It is not only easier to handle and more ergonomic, it is a huge time saver. We only have to push the car once to each machine.”

“Developing an oil recycling program required developing a solid understanding of how the guys on the shop floor operate,” said Blake Boling, an environmental scientist supporting the 737 airplane program. “We took the time to interview different groups during different shifts. The concept of recycling oil is not new, but when you have a complex manufacturing operation, it takes a lot of planning and effort to change the way things are done.”

Renton’s liquid waste recycling program contributes to Boeing’s five-year target of reducing hazardous waste disposal by 25 percent, on a revenue-adjusted basis, by 2012.