Sustainability in Action

Waste not, want not

Responsible consumption and production

Jess Dixon

It’s said that globally, we dump over 2 billion tons of waste per year. That’s why the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 12 is especially significant – because it focuses on responsible consumption and production. As a manufacturer – this Goal appeals to us directly.

In one of our previous articles, we explained what we were doing to reduce water consumption. But in addition to that, we’re working hard to achieve waste reduction across our Thorn and Zumtobel Group sites.

The team at our facility in Spennymoor, UK reviewed their waste streams and were able to identify that nearly half (41%) of waste comes from clean cuts – i.e. surplus materials created during manufacturing processes. They also established that just under a quarter (24%) comes from cardboard, 10% from wood, 10% from polycarbonate, 10% from general waste and the remaining 4% is scrap product.

By understanding what their waste is comprised of, the Spennymoor team were able to put a plan in place to reduce, reuse and recycle as much as possible. So - how is waste being better managed now?

As the biggest offender, the team quickly found a way to reduce clean cut waste. After working with product development colleagues, they found that leftover material from the Omega Pro 2 indoor luminaire could be reutilised in the manufacture of Isaro Pro gear trays – a saving of 40 tons of clean cut waste per year. A further four tons of clean cut waste can now be saved annually by optimising ‘nests’ on the laser and punch press machines.

Furthermore, analysis of wood scrap identified that 100 different sized pallets were being used by suppliers. Approximately half of them were standard pallets which are now being reused internally, while the non-standard sizes are being reused by suppliers.

A regrind process is being introduced to reuse white polycarbonate sprues (the small pieces of plastic in moulding which join a number of items together). The by-product will be transferred to other components, reducing the overall polycarbonate waste by over 10%. The team at the manufacturing plant in Lemgo, Germany also use this in-line grind process and immediately shred sprues and recycle them.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Other waste reduction initiatives in Lemgo include:

  • Switching from disposable cleaning cloths to reusable ones (saving half a ton of waste per year)
  • Arranging with a local supplier to return and reuse PET transport blisters which were previously disposed of
  • Agreeing with Tridonic (our Zumtobel Group sister brand) that deliveries will only be received in recyclable packaging.

It’s a similar story at our plant in Les Andelys, France, where the majority of our outdoor luminaires are manufactured. According to Maintenance and Facility Manager Alexandre Herisson, the most significant waste comes from sheet metal, wood and cardboard.

Like at Spennymoor, the key to reducing the scrap metal waste in Les Andelys is to utilise as much of the leftover pieces as possible.

The wood waste (the majority of which also comes from pallets) is being reused in production, and the team estimate that by repurposing the pallets, they’ll save 20 tons of waste per year.

For cardboard, the idea is quite similar – they have come up with a method of shredding the waste cardboard and using it in boxes to protect the items inside.

As we move forward, we’ll continue to find ways – however small – to ensure we are consuming and producing as responsibly as possible. By doing so, we are playing our part in the United Nations’ target to ensure that by 2030, waste generation is substantially reduced through prevention, reduction, recycling and reuse.