Original Date: 06/05/2006
Revision Date: / /
Best Practice : Recycling and Landfill Avoidance Program
Rockwell Collins developed a comprehensive recycling and landfill avoidance program that significantly reduced the amount of waste requiring landfill disposal. By creating numerous creative strategies tailored to the various types of waste that is non-product-related, Rockwell Collins has reduced its landfill waste in tons per $100 million sales by 70% over the course of the 14 years the project has been active. The Rockwell Collins Environmental, Safety & Health Team engaged both company employees and other local area businesses to participate in the recycling project, effectively ingraining the practice of landfill avoidance in the company’s culture and the surrounding community.
Recycling at Rockwell Collins was largely a volunteer activity that was poorly organized and typically limited to only white paper and cardboard. Reuse of component issue-packaging was infrequent and the cost of repetitive packaging materials was significant. Supplier packaging was frequently discarded, only to have materials repackaged after receiving for distribution throughout the Rockwell Collins manufacturing areas. Eventually these also ended up as waste in a Rockwell Collins dumpster bound for a local landfill. The Environmental, Safety & Health (EH&S) Team identified many opportunities to reduce the amount of waste that could be reused or recycled to avoid ending up in a landfill, enabling the company to avoid the costs associated with discarding and processing of the waste. As the major corporate presence in Cedar Rapids, Rockwell Collins also felt a strong responsibility to proactively pursue waste-reduction activities in its capacity as a role model for the community.
Rockwell Collins developed several innovative strategies for tackling the various problems of waste reduction. Thirty different issue packaging items were identified that could be reused, from antistatic bags and dual in-line package tubes to foam packaging peanuts, while the company developed a relationship with Goodwill Industries in Southeast Iowa to perform sorting and segregation activities. Goodwill Industries assists people with physical or emotional disabilities that prevent them from performing highly skilled jobs. Rockwell Collins entered a contract with Goodwill to send pallets of issue packaging items that cannot be recycled (e.g., antistatic bags, boxes, or web trays) to Goodwill to be separated, counted, and returned to Rockwell Collins for reuse.
A second strategy that Rockwell Collins developed was to work with suppliers to develop their packaging in such a way that it is easier for Rockwell Collins to recycle or reuse in the plant after it has served its purpose as packaging for supplier components and materials. Rockwell Collins also ships some supplier packaging back to its supplier for reuse, having determined this to be a more cost-effective approach than traditional recycling or discarding as waste. Similarly, Rockwell Collins regularly identifies local external users of packaging materials who are willing to take used Rockwell Collins materials for use in their smaller businesses.
A third recycling strategy that Rockwell Collins developed is to recycle all paper as mixed rather than separating it into the various categories that might provide a higher refund from the recycling agency. This allows the company to simplify and broaden its paper-collection methods, which captures a greater amount of the paper waste than the limited approach that was previously employed.
The Recycling and Landfill Avoidance Program has taken root in the culture of all Rockwell Collins facilities. Each department is held accountable for the amount of waste it generates, and monthly reports are reviewed by EH&S. Regular “dumpster-diving” events are held in which the contents of any of the large dumpsters are emptied to determine the effectiveness of the program. Any waste in the dumpster that should have been recycled or reused is tracked back to its source and corrective actions are identified to ensure it is properly binned. Both small and large dumpsters are now serviced less frequently due to the reduced amount of material they receive.
The approach Rockwell Collins has taken to recycling and landfill avoidance was cited as a Best Manufacturing Practice in 1995 and has been expanded to other organizations outside the company, including the Iowa State Capitol campus and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 7 headquarters. The company’s comprehensive recycling program has reduced its landfill waste in tons per $100 million sales by 70% throughout the 14 years the program has been active. As a result of these and other efforts, Rockwell Collins was designated by the EPA as one of three Performance Track Corporate Leaders in the United States in 2005.
Figure 2-8. Landfill Usage (Tons) per $100M Sales
For more information see the
Point of Contact for this survey.