Waste management in all industries is changing in fundamental ways, not least in response to the new trend for organisations to create a positive social impact. Waste management is one of the most powerful ways to achieve such an impact.

GM is a case in point. A previously derelict parking lot in Detroit, Michigan, now bears the name Cadillac Urban Garden, marking the fact that the 250 plant beds it contains are made from redundant shipping crates donated from GM’s nearby Orion assembly plant for direct use in the community project rather being scrapped or recycled.

The initiative is part of an overall GM commitment to making all its sites worldwide, be they manufacturing, assembly, or logistical, ‘landfill-free’. Based on a decision the company took in 1997 to systematically analyse its waste streams, GM now has more than 100 sites that are landfill-free. Most of them are manufacturing sites that recycle or reuse an average of 97% of all waste materials, with the remainder converted to energy through incineration.

It takes a remarkable effort to create such results and not all automotive organisations can go this route. It is entirely possible, however, to significantly improve waste management by managing one’s entire operation with waste in mind.

This can be challenging because wastes in the automotive industry are diverse. The majority of wastes generated in the industry are machine lubricants and coolants, aqueous and solvent based cleaning systems, paint, and scrap metals and plastics. Hazardous cleaning materials are common. In addition, office and warehousing wastes, such as paper, printer cartridges, pallets, and packing materials, also create handling issues.

By looking at waste management holistically, your organisation benefits financially and society benefits environmentally. For instance, process improvements (eg. fewer offcuts and rejects) reduce the cost of purchasing raw materials. 

Reviewing purchasing practices or using recycled or non-composite materials that can be separated or recycled minimises waste treatment and disposal costs and reduces long term liabilities. Promoting your socially and environmentally responsible behaviour and creating a safer and more comfortable workplace builds your brand, expands your market, and makes you more sustainable.

It’s an approach that calls for change in your organisation. A change in mindset and in operations is often required. Stakeholders need education on what you’re changing and why.

It’s all achievable, though, if you have a plan based on an assessment of your waste streams and an upfront decision on where in the waste hierarchy (avoid; reduce; reuse; recycle; and dispose) you want to be.

A good starting point is to prioritise actions and begin with the easy, ‘low-hanging fruit’ for fast gains and to generate enthusiasm in the business. Monitoring waste generation and disposal, such as checking collection contractors’ invoices or benchmarking production against raw material purchases, is important for environmental compliance, stock control, and measuring (and rewarding) improvements.

We’ve helped automotive companies of all sizes manage their waste effectively for more than three decades. We understand that there are many social, operational, environmental, and regulatory impediments to an ideal waste management solution

At the same time, we know from long experience that there is always something that can be improved. We partner with our customers, enabling them to decide on and implement the best waste management solution for their circumstances.

We offer services that take the management burden off your shoulders. We offer products that simplify waste management on your own premises.

If you would like to find out what options are available for your organisation, please contact our Customer Care Line on 0800 192 783 for South African enquiries and click here for the contact details for enquiries across Sub-Saharan Africa​.