Waste Generation from Manufacturing
Waste Management

The management of waste in general should involve some sort of system or process that comprehensively accounts for all wastes generated by an organization. Manufacturing operations typically produce different types of waste, in different proportions. Fundamental management should address waste minimization, generation, storage, handling, transport, and disposal. However, good waste management goes beyond fundamentals with initiatives like waste prevention, recycling, reuse, treatment, and composting. Environmental staff should have an input on the operational changes of the facility to minimize wastes generated and to factor environmental concerns into management decisions. 

Waste Classification

Solid waste – Solid waste is what commonly comes to mind when discussing waste management. Solid waste includes any non-hazardous garbage, refuse, and debris generated from operational activities.

Hazardous waste – Hazardous waste is broadly referred to in industry as any substance containing chemicals that requires safe disposal. They are the types of chemical waste that can cause severe harm to human health and the environment, which may be in the form of liquids, solids, gases or sludge. This inclusive meaning accounts for a wide range of waste streams that may or may not be classified as “hazardous waste” as defined by regulatory bodies. A narrower definition is used by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, which contains the federal laws and regulations that preside over the management and disposal of wastes. For clarity, this document refers to hazardous waste in the broad sense of wastes that may pose a hazard. 

Chemical waste – Chemical wastes are similar to hazardous waste in that they pose the same concerns to human health and the environment, but with less severity. These wastes are typically generated from any unnecessary or excess use of a chemical, excess mixed or unmixed chemicals, and substances or materials contaminated with chemicals. They are commonly found in the form of mislabeled, unlabeled, or abandoned substances, as well as contaminated debris such as rags, gloves, containers, disposable utensils, etc. A precautionary management strategy handles and stores each of their chemicals with an understanding of the associated dangers for safety reasons.

Sludge – Sludge may be another waste classification suitable for your organization. It is a byproduct produced from processes such as waste treatment and air emissions control, but is typically associated with wastewater treatment. Wastewater treatment seeks to remove suspended and dissolved solids while converting soluble organic material to bacterial cells. Sludge management may incorporate a variety of methods, but organizations seeking to integrate it into other waste streams needs to determine whether or not it is hazardous.

Typical Sustainable Supply Chain Scorecard Waste Questions [1]
Scorecard Questions
  1. Does your organization have a program and/or procedures for the management of types and quantities of wastes produced, including monitoring, collection, separation, disposal, and/or recycling?
  2. Does your organization have a strategy to manage waste responsibly and continuously attempts to prevent and reduce the production of waste? (i.e. resource reduction methods)
  3. Does your organization have targets for reducing waste production and/or increasing waste reused/recycled and measure its progress against these targets?
  4. Does your organization ensure that waste relevant for recycling is sorted and handed over to a recycling organization?
  5. Does your organization mark areas used for storage of waste?
  6. Does your organization properly label all containers for storing waste, including a relevant symbol of danger for hazardous waste?
  7. Does the organization take measures to reduce the production of waste and ensure responsible waste management?
  8. Which of the following methods are used to dispose of your solid waste?
    1. On-site disposal or incineration
    2. Disposal at a public solid waste facility
    3. Collection and transfer to a waste management entity
    4. Other
  9. Does your organization use licensed contractors for the transport, storage, transport, recycling and disposal of hazardous waste?
  10. Does your organization request recycling and disposal receipts from transport contractors?
  11. Does your organization comply with legal requirements for the handling, storage, transport, recycling and disposal of waste, including, if relevant, the requirements for transporting hazardous waste across borders?
  12. Does your organization have the necessary permits for the handling, storage, recycling and disposal of waste?
  13. Does your organization provide information and train employees on the safe handling, storage, transport and disposal of hazardous and special waste types?
  14. What is your organization’s total weight of waste by type and disposal method? [2]
  15. What is your organization’s residuals intensity (waste output)? [3]
    1. (weight or releases (from production processes and, if available, overhead) to air + weight of releases to surface water + weight of releases to land + weight of releases from landfills + weight of transfers to disposal + weight of transfers for treatment + weight of transfers to recycling + weight of transfers for energy recovery + weight of transfers to sewage + weight of additional GHGs produced + carbon content of direct energy use) / normalization factor = tons/normalization factor
  16. What is your organization’s weight of transported, imported, exported, or treated waste deemed hazardous under the terms of the Basel Convention Annex I, II, III, and VIII [4], and percentage of transported waste shipped internationally? [5]
  17. Does your organization generate wastes that are classified as hazardous wastes?
  18. Does your organization have a program and/or procedures for the management of hazardous wastes, including monitoring, characterization, treatment or conversion, reduction, and disposal?
  19. Which of the following methods are used to dispose of your hazardous waste?
    1. On-site waste treatment
    2. On-site temporary storage
    3. Collection and transfer to a waste management entity
    4. Discharge to ground or water
  20. Is hazardous waste (batteries, paint, electronic equipment, etc.) always disposed of responsibly?
  21. Has your organization set up a waste management program for universal wastes such as batteries, mercury containing equipment, pesticides, and lamps? [6]
  22. Has your organization set up a waste management program for universal wastes such as batteries, mercury containing equipment, pesticides, and lamps ?
Waste Indicators & Measurement

In order to answer to these scorecard requests or inquiries, a company needs to identify which indicators are going to reveal the answers to these questions and then help to identify a management strategy with established goals and targets for reduction.  Below are typical waste operational performance indicators and methods for measuring waste generation.

Typical Waste Operational Performance Indicators [7]
  • Amount of waste generated per year or per unit of production
  • Quantity of hazardous, recyclable or reusable waste produced per year
  • Total waste for disposal per month, 6 months or year
  • Quantity of waste stored onsite
  • Quantity of waste converted to reusable material per year
  • Quantity or percentage of hazardous waste eliminated by material substitution
Measuring Residuals Intensity

In a flawless manufacturing facility, all outputs of one process are inputs for another, in which residuals (wastes) do not exist. Unfortunately, no manufacturing operation is without residuals, and no organization can afford to ignore their costs and environmental impacts. An organization may help optimize their profitability by minimizing residuals because this action ensures a greater relative amount of their purchased materials are used, as opposed to being wasted. [8]  OECD recommends their Indicator O5 to measure the residuals intensity of an organization, which uses both of the formulas below.

Mass balance approach:

Waste output approach:

Unit of the indicator: tons/normalization factor

The mass balance approach subtracts the weight of all products from the weight of all materials consumed in the overhead and production to calculate an organization’s residuals intensity. The waste output approach calculated an organization’s residuals intensity looking at the other side of residuals by totaling the quantities of residuals generated.  The residuals’ calculated intensity can be verified by using both approaches, for which relatively equivalent answers should result. If there is a difference, then an important residual may likely have been left out.

An organization’s residuals may be broken up into the categories of the waste output approach, which are the same categories used for many countries’ governing Pollutant Release and Transfer Registries (PRTRs). The comprehensiveness of PRTRs varies between different countries. The United States’ PRTR is the Toxics Release Inventory (TRI), which contains data on discharges, transfers, emissions and other releases of over 650 toxic chemicals from thousands of facilities nationwide. TRI also contains information on facilities’ management practices related to toxic chemicals such as handling, recycling, energy recovery, substitution, and treatment.

Waste Audits & Assessments
Waste Management Assessment

Organizations should classify their waste streams according to regulatory requirements as well as features such as contents, source, transport, storage and disposal. Figuring out what features should be used to classify waste streams may be determined from collection data and information about them and their associated processes. Start with distinct features like type, quantities and disposal. Then analyze your waste streams’ potential EHS risks in order to prioritize management actions to control those risks. Management actions may include the establishment of procedures and operational controls for storage, treatment, and disposal. It may also include identifying opportunities for source reduction such as redesigning a process or product, reducing or substituting process inputs, reuse or recycling of materials, and treatment alternatives. When assessing or redesigning the layout of your manufacturing facility, account for waste sources and their necessary treatment, storage, and disposal.

Waste Auditing

When periodically auditing your organization’s facility, there are several waste aspects you should include. You should ensure that your organization is tracking waste generation trends according to the classification and quantities of your waste streams. Especially with hazardous waste streams, you should analyze and verify waste characteristics between and throughout processes. Verify employees have been trained and that trained employees know how to respond to spills and other emergencies. Incorporate environmental condition measures such as groundwater monitoring, soil tests, and ambient air concentrations. Your organization may also want to audit the disposal and treatment processes of your contracted services.

Waste Generation Improvements and Implementation
Waste Minimization & Prevention

The production activities of an organization should be designed and operated in a way that minimizes or prevents wastes from being generated as well as their related EHS risks. Some waste prevention actions include:

  • Substitute input materials and substances with less or non-hazardous alternatives.
  • Substitute input materials and substances with more efficient alternatives to reduce wastes generated.
  • Modify production processes to fabricate products more efficiently with higher output yields and with less EHS risks. Modifications may involve the design, operating conditions, operator procedures, and engineering controls of processes.
  • Establish good housekeeping, operating, and maintenance routines to maintain optimal process conditions and material quality, such as operation controls, inventory controls, material conservation, efficiency monitoring, and quality inspection.
  • Enable managers and operators to recognize and report improvement opportunities through training, awareness and reporting/suggestion mechanisms.
  • Implement waste segregation and contamination controls to reduce hazardous waste generation by preventing the commingling of hazardous and nonhazardous waste.
Recycling & Reuse

An organization’s total quantity of waste generated may be reduced significantly through recycling and reuse practices. In evaluating your organization’s waste sources, identify potentially recyclable and reusable materials that can be brought back into the generating process or used in another process. In order to reuse or recycle materials you will may need to put them through a treatment process for them to meet the input requirements of a process. Your organization should also look at external sources of recycled material from other manufacturing organizations to reduce costs of inputs and increase your environmental performance. Likewise, determine if components of your waste may be suitable for reuse in other manufacturing operations. Provide employees training and incentivize them to meet recycling objectives, such as waste reduction and recycling quotas.

Hazardous Waste Handling, Storage & Transport

It’s always best to prevent or minimize the handling of hazardous waste.  But when handling, storing, and transporting is necessary, the organization should focus on mitigating health, safety and environmental concerns. In order to do so, environmental staff, employees and contractors need to understand the possible risks and impacts related to the hazardous wastes they are dealing with. When hazardous waste is being handled and transported by contractors, your organization needs to ensure that they are credible and licensed properly with the applicable agencies. There are many regulations controlling the use and handling of hazardous waste, so be sure that your activities comply with the applicable laws. Even questionably negligible hazardous waste such as oily rags or empty containers can be cited as violations.

The majority of concerns with waste storage are related to hazardous wastes.  Hazardous wastes need to be stored in a way that prevents contamination to soil, water and air matrixes. Avoid intermixing stored hazardous wastes through use of physical barriers and ensure that storage areas may be comprehensively inspected for leaks or spillage. Storage areas should be maintained within environmental conditions acceptable for the materials and substances they’re storing, which may include weathering factors like sunlight, rain, frost and wind. Underground storage tanks and piping of hazardous waste and substances should be avoided since there is no easy way to inspect or maintain such apparatuses.

Transporting waste increases the risks of spills, accidental releases, and exposures to employees, the public and the environment. Every waste container for hazardous and nonhazardous wastes needs to be labeled, secured, and designed appropriately for offsite transportation. All offsite transport needs to be accompanied by some sort of chain of custody or manifest that describes the load and its related concerns. Employees should be aware of the importance of related health, safety and environmental concerns. If appropriate, they should also be trained for properly handling, storing and transporting hazardous waste. Adequate training curriculums include inspection, spills response and emergency procedures.

Waste Treatment & Disposal

Implementing waste prevention, minimization, reuse, and recycling activities can reduce a lot of waste from being generated, but the waste that is generated should be treated and disposed of properly. Treatment measures enable proper disposal and prevent potential environmental and public health effects. Treatments may be onsite or offsite, and involve biological, chemical, or physical processes. Waste with hazardous characteristics is typically treated to make it nonhazardous before disposal. Some waste may need to be received by a specially permitted facility that is designed to dispose of it properly. Your organization should establish acquisition agreements with qualified waste vendors that have obtained the necessary permits, certifications and permissions from governing entities.

Monitoring and Controlling Waste Generation

All procedures related to hazardous and nonhazardous wastes should have controls established and should be monitored. The goal of controls and monitoring is to anticipate, prevent, identify and verify unintentional releases. Minimal monitoring should include periodic physical inspections of waste generation sources, storage areas, transport apparatuses, waste related documentation, and proper labeling. When dealing with significant quantities of hazardous wastes, organizations should have comprehensive monitoring and control activities established. Some example activities are below.

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  • Inspection of containment apparatuses and barriers for losses such as leaks and spillage, quality factors such as corrosion, cracks and damage, and engineering controls such as locks, emergency valves, and safety devices.
  • Verify functionality of emergency, spill prevention, and safety devices
  • Documentation controls for testing reliability and monitoring data collection as well as management of change documentation
  • Monitoring documentation of hazardous waste that includes
    • Name and identification number
    • Physical state (solid, liquid, gas)
    • Number, capacity, location and amount of contents of all storage containers
    • Manifest for transportation, storage and disposal