By Morgan Hale, Dee Stevens & Eric Copenhaver
Nestled in the rural hills of the central Appalachian Mountains lies the Parsons, West Virginia, Kingsford manufacturing plant. Over the last year, a local project team, led by environmental resource Dee Stevens and Engineering Manager Eric Copenhaver, worked diligently to have the plant be certified a zero-waste-to-landfill (ZWtL) Clorox site. Given its small-town location and limited resources available for recycling and proper disposal, the team realized getting to zero-waste would be no small task.
While the wider world, including the community around Parsons, was looking for ways to tackle COVID-related challenges like proper social distancing, remote work and school and the growing demand for disinfecting products, the team at Parsons chose to maneuver an additional set of challenges. For them, the work began with getting buy-in to a zero-waste mindset.
“We knew to be successful we would have to change our culture. Recycling may be common in larger cities, but not in rural West Virginia. Matter of fact, you might say ‘almost unheard of,’” said Stevens. “We recognized to grow participation, our process needed to be simple and easy.”
So that’s how the Parsons team designed it. Each waste stream was identified and given clear collection points across the plant. The team tapped into their World Class Operation (WCO) skills to color code waste streams for quick, at-a-glance disposal. Waste maps were posted in multiple locations, and each employee got a reference card to stick on their badge so it’s always handy. The team even added and labeled a container for used hard hats, leaving no material behind.
“We made adjustments as new ideas surfaced and gradually, recycling became part of our daily commitment,” said Stevens.
While the plant was adopting a new way of working focused on zero-waste, the Parsons Green Team was searching for partners that could process the plant’s different waste streams.
“Several times we had no sooner found a waste stream outlet when options dissolved,” said Copenhaver. “West Virginia might be wild and wonderful, but it’s not recycling friendly. We were constantly looking for new recycling opportunities to stay ahead of changing conditions.”
The local area had so few offerings for recycling and waste-to-energy facilities, the Parsons team started looking to neighboring states for help. Today, it sends waste streams to be processed in Virginia, Maryland and Ohio. It’s even using a waste-to-energy vendor in Martinsburg, West Virginia — the future home of Clorox’s new cat litter plant! Despite the limited resources immediately available, the Parsons team took the initiative to make sure every waste stream was handled properly and saved from being sent to a landfill.
Its remote location caused smaller problems, too. For example, because Parsons is located so close to the edge of the electrical grid, it has only a weak Internet signal. That made it nearly impossible to conduct the virtual audits and site visits via smart glasses and online meetings, as other Clorox sites have done during COVID to receive ZWtL certification.
The Parsons team solved this problem, too. Accepting that an interactive, virtual audit was out of the question, Stevens and the Parsons Green Team instead walked the plant with smart phones, recording everything they saw to share with Clorox environmental and safety leaders in Kennesaw, Georgia. Their videos captured all the containers, signage and disposal practices in action to demonstrate their ZWtL practices and earn certification.
Clearly, when it came down to it, nothing was going to stop Parsons from becoming Clorox’s 20th ZWtL facility. Dee Stevens, Eric Copenhaver, the Green Team, and the rest of the Parsons plant have proven their dedication to Clorox’s IGNITE strategy and one of our strongest values, “do the right thing.”
Progress toward our goal
Parsons’ certification brings the company one step closer to its goal to achieve ZWtL in 100% of our global facilities by 2030 and our plants by 2025, where infrastructure allows. We set this goal because Clorox is committed to putting people at the center, and people can only thrive in a clean world where waste is responsibly managed. Learn more about the steps we are taking to reduce waste in our operations.