How DuPont Building Innovations Achieved Zero Waste to Landfill

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Linda Fisher How DuPont Building Innovations Achieved Zero Waste to LandfillLinda J. Fisher, chief sustainability officer at DuPont explains how the company achieved zero waste to landfill at its Building Innovations business unit, and the lessons it can apply elsewhere in the company...

Through our 'Drive to Zero' landfill program, DuPont recently achieved zero landfill status in its Building Innovations business.  Now is an excellent time to consider what key findings we can apply to future initiatives. 

With 20 years under our belts of voluntarily reporting on our environmental footprint, we recognise and value the process of 1) establishing challenging goals 2) working with our entire value chain to find ways to achieve them, and 3) striving for continuous improvement.

The need for managing our waste was brought to our attention by our annual sustainability reviews and customer surveys - a process in which risks and opportunities arising from environmental issues are highlighted. We saw a clear opportunity to not only reduce our corporate footprint, but also to provide products that deliver profitability for our customers in a more sustainable way. 

After surveying 800 customers around the world in a variety of industries, we found that 89% believe there is a long-term market need for products with environmental benefit. They also indicated that they look to buy products from companies that are eliminating manufacturing waste, and we quickly focused on this area. 

The business opportunity for managing waste streams was a key driver for the company's investment of resources in zero waste.  Because we tie our sustainability commitments to business growth, waste emerged as a real opportunity.

Even though DuPont's landfill disposal met all corporate, local and country regulations, there was a strong belief that the business could do better. 

Therefore, in 2009, DuPont Building Innovations made a concerted effort to tackle landfill waste - no small feat for a business unit that manufacturers DuPont Corian solid surfaces, Zodiaq quartz surfaces, Tyvek Weatherisation Systems, and geosynthetics.

Plan of action

The business formed a global team to find a better way to manage the 36,700 tonnes of landfill waste generated annually at 15 sites across the world.

The task was immense.  The zero landfill initiative had to be carried out without impacting the quality of first-grade production or resulting in any other unanticipated consequences. This meant that the project team had to manage the challenge of eliminating all related and unrelated product manufacturing landfill waste. 

In addition, Building Innovations recognised that it could not achieve this goal alone, so they collaborated with third party manufacturing partners who shared the zero-waste ideals.

To begin, the business conducted an analysis of what was being discarded to help the team gain a solid understanding of what was going to landfill. 

Waste was tracked at the 15 global manufacturing sites, some owned by DuPont, some by partners.  Throughout the project, Six Sigma methodology was used, which allowed the team to understand where and why waste streams were generated and how much waste was being produced by each site.

The next step was to determine the means by which the waste could be reused or recycled productively.  Some by-products were easier to reuse or recycle than others, but today the following innovations have all been implemented:
  • Sanding waste from the manufacture of Corian and Zodiaq is used as a filler replacement in concrete
  • Ground-up scrap Corian sheet is used as recycled content in first grade products such as the company's Terra Collection of Corian solid surfaces that now contain up to 20% recycled content
  • Crushed scrap Corian is sold for use as road sub-base material and as landscape stone
  • Tyvek wrap and flashing manufacturing trim is recycled into first-grade weatherproofing  material
  • Shipping pallets are repaired, reused, or ground into animal bedding
  • Carrier belt film is melted and used to make adhesives, and
  • Cafeteria waste is recycled into worm bedding or converted into energy.
Results

After three years of focused effort, DuPont Building Innovations has succeeded in becoming completely landfill-free, reducing its environmental footprint from 36,700 tonnes of landfill waste annually to zero. 

Today, none of the waste generated by the business from DuPont Corian, Zodiaq, Tyvek, or geosynthetics is sent to landfills.
 
We are now looking for similar opportunities in other business units to eliminate landfill waste there too. The Drive to Zero initiative has set a precedent that it is both achievable and worthwhile, benefiting the environment, and, ultimately, our company.

Linda J. Fisher is the chief sustainability officer at DuPont


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