Team tackles waste

A team of environmentally active employees

A team of environmentally active employees at the Spares Distribution Center in Seattle started helping the massive warehouse reduce energy use and waste by bringing their personal recycling and conservation habits from home into the workplace.

“I live out in the country and don’t have a lot of services. We take care of trash hauling and recycling ourselves. When they started this team, I thought there are things I do at home that we could do here on a larger scale,” says Bill Woomer, materials processing facilitator.

Teammate Dave Mulhall agrees. “We got good project ideas from brainstorming: What do you do at home? What do you see in the warehouse?”

The team’s brainstorming and conservation ideas have helped make a big difference: the warehouse reduced the amount of trash sent to landfills by 70 percent, from 122 tons annually in 2009 to 38 tons in 2011. The percentage of solid waste recycled has jumped from 77 percent to 93 percent.

The team of volunteers came together in 2009. Their first big project was to tackle the enormous amount of waste being dumped in the trash and sent to landfills.

“When boxes and crates would come into receiving, someone would open the container, inspect the part, and throw away all of the packaging material. But then someone else would use new material to repackage the part for storage. It didn’t make sense,” says fellow team member Dean Ramert.

“We started saving and reusing the packaging from incoming containers and reducing how much new packing material we bought. It made a huge difference right from the start,” he says.

“That project was one of our early successes, and I think it encouraged the team that, yes, we can make a difference,” Mulhall adds.

Another tactic for reducing incoming waste has been to work directly with suppliers. “If our employees in receiving see a part arrive with a “packaging discrepancy” -- such as four bolts shipped in a huge box stuffed with paper -- we’ll contact the supplier and recommend different packaging,” Ramert says.

Environmentally progressive standards for reducing shipping waste also are part of all supplier contracts, he says.

The team has made it easier for warehouse employees to recycle and reduce waste by adding more recycling bins throughout the facility and reducing the number of garbage cans.

The distribution center’s success in reducing waste and improving efficiency is part of Boeing’s environmental leadership, Ramert says. “It’s part of what we call the Boeing Edge. Protecting the environment and continually improving our operations are core values that help make us a global leader.”