Original Date: 02/23/1998
Revision Date: 01/18/2007
Best Practice : Pollution Prevention and Reductions
In 1990, Northrop Grumman set an aggressive environmental Corporate goal (using a 1989 baseline) to achieve a 90% reduction in hazardous waste disposal by 1996. The company also took aggressive steps toward reducing non- hazardous solid waste at all its facilities. Several approaches used to achieve these pollution prevention objectives included changing the processes or equipment; substituting chemicals; eliminating hazards; reducing toxicities and emissions; and recycling.
Previously, Northrop Grumman was spending nearly $7 million to dispose of its 7,500 tons of hazardous waste. In 1990, Northrop Grumman set an aggressive environmental Corporate goal (using a 1989 baseline) to achieve a 90% reduction in hazardous waste disposal by 1996. Based on its reputation for solving complex problems with advanced technology and sophisticated engineering, Northrop Grumman challenged its employees to meet this goal. As a result, employees utilized their talents and not only achieved this goal, but, in many cases, surpassed the goal by 1996. The Environmental Department focused on reducing employee and community exposure; operational costs; and Corporate liability. Several approaches used to achieve these pollution prevention objectives included changing the processes or equipment; substituting chemicals; eliminating hazards; and reducing toxicities and emissions. Alternatives such as recycling and reuse were chosen for some of the spent chemicals, while in some cases neutralizing the chemical prior to disposal was the only option. The Department also created and maintained an aggressive schedule in the environmental control room to prioritize individual projects quarterly through 1996.
Research revealed several equipment options that would assist Northrop Grumman in pollution prevention throughout its operations. Key equipment changes included: On-demand, multi-component paint dispensing machines to reduce the amount of paint purchased for touch- ups as well as excess waste generation
Creation of Portable Air Pollution Control Equipment (PAPCE) to reduce emissions from touch-up spraying
Specialized High Efficiency Particulate Arrester (HEPA) filter banks on paint booths to reduce chromate emissions
Replacement of photographic chemistry with electronic imaging
Replacement of air agitation with eductor-assisted fluid agitation
Use of solvent distillation to aid in solvent recovery
Replacement of large, wasteful, open-topped solvent tanks with enclosed spray gun cleaning machines
Creation of specialized tables to limit the amount of alodine wasted during specific touch-ups
Replacement of chromate processing chemicals with non-chromated equivalents
The company’s push for reductions in ozone depleting chemicals (ODCs) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs) combined with these equipment changes resulted in an 89% reduction in hazardous waste by 1996. By surpassing the environmental Corporate goal and obtaining the 89% hazardous waste reduction in only six years, Northrop Grumman’s leaders and employees felt they could do even better. A new goal was established to eliminate 50% of the remaining hazardous waste by the year 2001. Several equipment ideas continue to be perfected. One employee- suggested idea was to furnish each workstation with a Work In Process (WIP) can. These metal WIP cans have a lid to keep rags/gloves clean and damp for reuse throughout the day. Earlier practices required the rags to be disposed of as hazardous waste after each use because there was no place to store the rag for reuse. WIP cans provide Northrop Grumman with an annual savings of $200,000. The company also uses many sealants during the manufacturing process, and close observation identified tremendous waste from unused sealants. Northrop Grumman reduced this waste by changing from six-ounce tubes to one- and two-ounce tubes for use in small jobs. This practice has been well supported by employees and decreased waste at the facilities.
In the 1990s, Northrop Grumman took aggressive steps toward reducing non-hazardous solid waste at all its facilities as well. Several recycling bins were scattered across the facilities to accommodate a recycling program. Employee attitudes blended well with this program as most employees were accustomed to recycling at home. During recycling market fluctuations, Northrop Grumman identified the least expensive method for continuing its non-hazardous waste recycling program. The effort resulted in the company switching from a source separation and collection method to a bulk collection method of non-hazardous waste which is then sorted at an off-site Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). Metrics collected from the MRF maintain the integrity of the program. Table 2-1 shows the metrics for the West Complex in 1997. Northrop Grumman also identified an outlet for its wood waste through a vendor who grinds the wood and forms it into fireplace logs. Other materials such as excess paint, office supplies, and laboratory equipment are continually donated by the company to local schools and not-for-profit organizations.
Table 2-1. Diverted Non-Hazardous Waste
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