When Boeing South Carolina became one of just a handful of company sites to reach the zero-waste-to-landfill milestone, Tony Soto saw the achievement not as the end of their efforts to reduce waste, but as the beginning.
“Getting the designation isn’t an end-point or goal; ‘zero-waste’ is an ongoing journey of continuous improvement,” said Soto, Environment, Health and Safety senior manager. “We’ve already identified ways we can get better.”
The North Charleston site became the first major Boeing Commercial Airplanes production facility to achieve zero waste to landfill in 2011. Zero waste means none of the waste materials and by-products generated at the site reaches a landfill. Waste is recycled, reused or otherwise repurposed.
The site's waste management plan includes comprehensive recycling with recycling centers located throughout the facility; composting; and a waste-to-energy strategy, which means material that can’t be recycled is collected by a contractor and taken to a facility that burns waste to create energy.
Soto figures their waste-reduction efforts in 2011 diverted approximately 1,400 tons of material away from landfills. Since the North Charleston site already sends no waste to landfills, how can it improve on “zero”?
“There is a lot of room for improvement. Part of our push this year is to get more material out of the waste-to-energy stream and into true recycling, where it can be put to beneficial use, such as becoming part of another product,” Soto said.
Another solution Soto cited was to reduce the amount of waste that comes into the site by using more containers that go back to the supplier. The containers are replenished with parts or other material and come back to the site in a closed loop.
“The Boeing site’s waste reduction program is getting a lot of attention from other South Carolina companies,” Soto said. “It’s great to know we’re being benchmarked as the standard in reducing, reusing and recycling waste. We want the community to see Boeing as a good environmental steward.”