international: British County Creates Waste Minimization Culture

With new businesses comes new waste. To deal with that influx and shrinking landfill space, the rural county of Northamptonshire, England, developed a waste minimization program in partnership with local companies.

With its population of approximately 600,000, Northamptonshire generates nearly 1,232,600 tonnes per year in commercial and industrial waste compared to 250,000 tonnes per year from households. The majority, approximately 90 percent, is landfilled.

As public concern about increased industrialization in the area grew and a landfill shortfall loomed, the county realized an integrated waste management plan that reduced waste at its source was a priority.

Businesses dominate the area, but the county needed to develop a culture of waste minimization throughout the whole community. Thus, in 1996, the county decided that a Resource Efficiency Project that demonstrated waste minimization to large and small local business was needed.

In addition, Northamptonshire wanted to assist companies in reducing costs and improving their competitiveness by doing more with less - less resource consumption (raw materials, energy, water, consumables and transport), less waste disposal (to air, water and land) and more capacity (more production of first-quality product).

Because a county-wide project is a large undertaking, and several similar projects had failed recently, Northamptonshire sought the best procedures early to avoid the mistakes made by others.

The project began in July 1997 with the formation of a "club" of companies that would support each other throughout the project, which is expected to be completed by December 1999.

It was split into three parts:

* Phase I - Launch and Recruitment. It took six months to launch the project and recruit businesses. Using local organizations' databases, companies were targeted to receive project information. Two recruitment seminars then were held in August 1997, bringing in some 70 interested companies, half of which received follow-up visits and free waste minimization mini-audits.

Supply-chain pressure and legislation were the primary reasons companies got involved. The companies that did not participate cited a lack of time and expressed doubts that waste minimization would be profitable or helpful. Phase 1 was so successful that at least five additional companies were granted associate status after the initial recruitment.

* Phase 2 - Business Support. In January 1998, 18 companies that were deemed to have the most potential to benefit from regular visits and performance monitoring within the waste minimization program were invited to Phase 2.

A "Project Champion" (for larger companies a steering group became necessary) was appointed to visit each site regularly and provide assistance in:

* priority waste stream auditing;

* data collection and evaluation for waste minimization opportunities;

* making the case for any prudent investments; and

* consultant support on specific issues, such as developing environmental management systems or technical problems.

Specialist monitoring and targeting Montage software, manufactured by project partner March Consulting Group, Manchester, England, identifies trends and opportunities for waste minimization at each site, and the results are reported to participating companies each month.

In addition to on-site work, Northamptonshire holds quarterly seminars to compare participants' progress. During these seminars, organizations receive training to help promote a minimization culture.

* Phase 3 - Dissemination and Replication. Six months before Phase 2 is completed, the dissemination program will begin, including project- and technique-specific case studies, press releases, seminars and website establishment. At the end of this phase, the county hopes to set up a permanent waste minimization center where companies can get free advice. Other companies in the county will be encouraged to employ similar strategies. And if the commercial/industrial project proves successful, the county hopes to adopt a similar program for residents.

So far, the project has exceeded all the targets the county and local government set. Lessons learned include:

* Spend time on research. Plan your project to include all the best practices that have been developed from the most successful case studies.

* Develop networks of all concerned organizations early on.

* Use marketing experts to develop a suitable message for your targeted audience.

* Be enthusiastic and committed to waste minimization.

* Advertise good news about the project using every possible media.

* Universities can make central contributions. University staff have expertise in several areas. The staff also should be made aware that company projects may generate research, which can be used in class courses.

There already are success stories. For example, one medium-sized chemical company has saved around $400,000 per year by diverting what it previously thought was "waste" from the landfill to another industry as a "resource." A large food processor also saved nearly $100,000 per year by auditing its paper and cardboard disposal costs and finding less expensive means.

Previous similar projects have demonstrated that companies can save approximately 1 percent of annual profit. Typical waste minimization initiatives have a payback period of less than six months. And because the initial mini-audits were free, costs to participate in the full program were only $800 per company.

But cooperation was essential to the regional waste minimization initiative. The Local Government Capital Challenge gave a $240,000 grant to the program because the partners worked together prior to grant application submission to make a compelling case.

In addition to environmental benefits, other advantages resulting from the program include improved compliance with legislation, enhanced reputation with stakeholders and risk reduction.

* Kellogg's first cereal box, produced in 1906, was packaged in recycled paperboard. Today, all individual and family-sized cereal packages are made from 100 percent recycled paperboard, as are packages for Rice Krispies Treats, Pop-Tarts and Nutrigrain Bars. Additionally, the company uses recycled paper for its annual report, company newsletters and the majority of its copy paper needs.

* S.C. Johnson packages its household cleaning items - Pledge, Glade, Shout, Raid and OFF - in 25 percent recycled steel containers. In addition, Windex (32 oz.) is packaged in 50 percent recycled PET bottles and Future (27oz.) is packaged in 100 percent recycled PET bottles.

* Twenty percent of the paper purchased by Hallmark contains a minimum of 20 percent post-consumer waste.

* Hershey Foods now wraps its Hershey Miniatures in one wrapper. Previously each Miniature was wrapped in foil and wrapped again in an outer layer label. Similarly, select sizes of Kit Kat, Mr. Goodbar, Reese's Peanut Butter Cup and Cookies 'N Cream bars now are packaged in one wrapper.

* Between 1991 and 1995, Gillette realized a four-fold increase in the amount of recycled materials it uses in its packaging. Today, 29 percent of its packaging materials are composed of recycled materials. Additionally, it uses more than 1 million pounds of post consumer recycled plastics in a variety of packaging components, from razors to anti-perspirants.

Awards Eastern Environmental Services Inc., Mt. Laurel, N.J., has signed an agreement with the Stamato companies based in northern New Jersey for a pooling of business interests.

The Southeastern Public Service Authority, Chesapeake, Va., has won the 1998 Virginia Environmental Stewardship Award for its education and community relations program.

Ellis D. Bingham, director of solid waste management for Fauquier County, Warrenton, Va., has been awarded the 1998 Professional Achievement award from The Solid Waste Association of North America Virginia Old Dominion chapter.