Increase Recycling Revenues with 7 Lean Techniques

1. Mixed Material = Poor Revenues

Case-in-point: one company’s efforts to separate out the valuable recyclables from the trash created revenue of $5,000 per year, and offset their cost of hauling the remaining non-recyclable wastes. Sort waste streams as close to the point of generation as possible to keep waste streams pure and reduce the need to re-sort.

2. Train the CI Team on Another Type of Waste

Most Continuous Improvement (CI) teams are well versed in “extra-processing”, long wait-times, or the waste of too much inventory. However, these same people may not be as keen for seeing large amounts of scrap, or if those scrapped pieces are disposed of or recycled. Hold a short training session, run by the person who leads the CI team and the person in charge of the recycling / waste disposal. Take a tour and learn to see this new waste.

3. Start With a 5S Review / Kaizen

Program a Kaizen for the recycling team. Pull in the people making the waste, the material purchasers, the waste collectors and even the company hauling / recycling the waste. They may have insights on how to improve collection so they can pay you more for the scrap you do produce.

4. Color-Coded Collection Bins

What if your recycle bins on the shop floor were striped, and the trash bins were black? Waste oils are yellow and metal scrap is green. This can be mapped out on a floor plan, and everyone will know where the scrap goes.

5. Visual Instruction for Recycling

One injection molding company created visual symbols for the different types of plastic used on the floor. Polypropylene, ABS, Acetal, and others all have a unique symbol (square, star, circle, etc.). The bins for collecting these by-products have the symbol on them and so do the travelers that accompany material pull-requests. Symbols were chosen over colors as some floor workers may be red / green colorblind.

6. Track Progress

If you already have “Lean” metrics, such as Overall Equipment Effectiveness (OEE), within your factory, why not create one for recycling? Start simply, perhaps just the tons of waste hauled versus the tons recycled. If you back-fill this new chart with some historical data, you can look at the upper and lower extremes, and create a Control Line (a band of acceptable levels of waste generation). Now your team will know to ask questions if the metrics cross the limits of the Control Lines. Integrating Continuous Improvement methods, like the one above, into recycling efforts will yield great insights.

7. Consider “Landfill-free” Certification

Landfill-free is a funny term. Technically it means recycling 90% of your production-related wastes. Why bother tracking to this level of detail? Well, many consumer-facing brands are pressured by NGO’s or shareholders to move the needle in their sustainability programs. The Landfill-free certification is a great project for this, and it espouses a continuous improvement approach.

What other ideas do you have for increasing recycling revenues or decreasing waste costs?

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