What It Takes to Get to Near-Zero Solid Waste

This post was written by David Creamer, Environment and Sustainability group manager.

Our Glad® manufacturing facility in Orangeville, Ontario, Canada, has the distinction of being the first and only Clorox plant to receive the company’s Low Waste Facility designation. To be classified as a low waste facility, a site has to divert more than 90 percent of its waste away from landfill. In addition, the site has to pass a detailed audit to ensure that its landfill waste streams are free from any recyclable materials. A facility that meets these criteria and also can divert its remaining solid waste to a waste-to-energy facility is eligible for a Zero Waste Facility designation.

The Orangeville site was audited in May and passed the low waste audit with flying colors. Presently, the site only sends 4 percent of its waste to landfill. The other 96 percent is recycled or composted.

Dedicated to Diversion
How does Orangeville achieve this diversion rate? It starts with a dedicated eco team at the site. The team consists of eight members, led by plant engineering manager Nenad Miric and environmental coordinator Julie Koch. At every manufacturing line and throughout the warehouse and office areas, you see recycling stations where employees separate landfill waste, paper, soft plastic, compostable waste and all other mixed recyclables. Everyone in the plant takes ownership and responsibility when it comes to “doing the right thing” for the environment. Julie Koch notes that people generally treat the plant the same way they would their homes, including being conscious of what gets thrown away and how that affects the environment. She also pointed out that the eco team does an orientation with everyone who works in the building, to educate them about how to dispose of various things, since different locales require recyclables to be sorted differently.

Eco team member Diane Mercer was asked, “How do you get everyone so involved and have such a great level of participation in your recycling program?” She answered, “My daughter kind of got me into it. We recycle at home.”

According to Julie, one thing that’s helped Orangeville get its waste-to-landfill rate low is that the city of Orangeville lets the plant recycle a lot of things that other municipalities won’t. In addition, they have found a waste hauler that takes items the city won’t accept (such as takeout coffee cups with a plasticized coating). All the paper that is sold to the hauler is taken to a paper mill that pulps it for reuse.

Auditing Often
Orangeville started its diversion program about a year before the audit for the low waste designation, so it was well prepared when the formal audit rolled around. The eco team onsite shares information about the program with plant employees regularly, such as providing reports about the amount of waste diverted. The plant’s waste stream is audited every month, and notices were posted before the audit in May, so employees were aware it would be happening.

To qualify for the Low Waste Facility designation, a facility is given a detailed audit by the Corporate Environment and Sustainability Team, in which the team looks at every single container (waste, recycling and compost) inside and outside the facility to check for compliance.

Clorox officially rolled out the Low Waste and Zero Waste designations in 2011. The Orangeville plant was the first to reach the Low Waste designation. Both manufacturing sites and nonmanufacturing sites can qualify for the designation, and we hope that more qualify in the future.

The Orangeville plant is fortunate to be in a city where the surrounding municipalities support recycling and composting, so environmental stewardship and recycling is reinforced at home and in the schools, as well as in the workplace. Congratulations to the entire Orangeville plant on being the company’s first Low Waste Facility. We appreciate the hard work and dedication in setting the bar for waste minimization at our manufacturing sites.

David has been with The Clorox Company for more than five years. He began working at the Forest Park, Georgia, plant as the environmental manager and later moved to the Global Corporate Environment and Sustainability Group as a group client manager. Prior to working at Clorox, he worked in the automotive industry as an engineer, where he was first introduced to environmental compliance and sustainability as a profession. At Clorox, David is active as a resource for our manufacturing sites, a member of the environmental audit team and also the waste minimization leader for the company.