Zero Can Be a Big Number

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Since January 2011, the Cummins Darlington (U.K.) Engine Plant hasn’t sent any waste to a landfill. That’s nothing in more than 16 months. Zero. Nada.

And on top of that, the plant has reduced associated annual operating costs by $159,000.

Darlington achieved its “zero landfill” status by making waste reduction a plant priority, and then using processes, tools and resources – most notably its employees and suppliers – to provide a structured program that delivers results.

“The success of this project is the Cummins Operating System in action,” said Helen Hutchings, the plant’s Health, Safety and Environment Manager, referring to 10 practices and approaches designated by the Company to improve customer satisfaction and profitability.

“It combined a rigorous process with employee passion to produce an important achievement for the plant, and more importantly, for the environment,” she said.

The plant used the established protocols in its Environmental Management System to make waste management a priority. This designation then cascaded specific resources, training and communications to plant employees supporting the effort. Employee suggestions plus informal work-team talks further increased engagement.

Color-coded recycling stations made recycling very visible and easy to do at the plant. But not all of the plant’s materials are the numbered plastics, glass, paper and other items readily recyclable. So working with the plant’s supply chain was critical on the journey to zero.

A contractor sorted and processed some of the more difficult materials. Another key supplier helped to find a recyclable substitute for packaging material that previously was disposed in a landfill.

Cummins’ philosophy is that simply burning waste is not a legitimate way to achieve zero landfill status. The plant handled every waste material by either recycling or recovering environmental value through burning it for energy recovery at a waste-to-energy facility.

Less than one percent of the waste at Darlington was burned. Darlington is the first Cummins plant to achieve zero landfill status with such a significant emphasis on recycling.

At Cummins and in Darlington, zero landfill truly means zero waste. And in that way, zero really can be a big number.

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