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sheville dumpster dive may reduce waste

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7/5/2011 - Asheville dumpster dive may reduce waste
by Gloria Tucker - Asheville Citizen Times

Bigger businesses, taking things to the basic levels for the sake of the economy and environment - now that's business in Western North Carolina!! 

 

                       Jeff Powers, of Thermo Fisher Scientific/Asheville, has challenged his employees to eliminate all of the company's landfill waste by 2015.

 Toward that end, they donned white jumpers last week to sort through garbage in three huge trash bins.

Powers, site leader and director of operations, explained the Dumpster dive was the first step to understanding the waste that is generated by the facility.

"By picking the garbage all apart, we can better understand where the wastes are coming from," Powers said. "We will then put in place plans to either reduce consumption, reuse any materials, and recycle the rest."

Thermo Fisher communications manager Andrew Dunn said the Asheville site generates about 21 tons of landfill waste per month. That is down more than 25 percent compared with the third quarter of 2010, when company workers started tracking it more closely and established a "green team."

Dunn said landfill waste goes to the Buncombe County Landfill via a third-party waste hauler.

According to the EPA, American industrial facilities generate and dispose of approximately 7.6 billion tons of industrial solid waste each year. American large-quantity generators (mostly industrial) generate 35 million tons of hazardous waste. In North Carolina, large-quantity generators generate 71,763 tons of hazardous waste. A large-quantity generator is defined as one that in any single month generates 1.1 tons or more of hazardous waste.

Powers said other facilities that have gone to zero landfill waste have sorted through dumpsters to better understand waste and mapped insights back into the facility.

"If you understand how you generated it, then you can focus on reducing, reusing and recycling to eliminate the waste from being generated in the first place," he said.

Thermo Fisher Scientific manufactures ultra-low temperature freezers, lab refrigerators and freezers, blood bank refrigerators, plasma freezers, ovens and incubators for clinical, research, academic and pharmaceutical use.

Tim Hamel, manager for manufacturing technology and process engineering, listed the kinds of trash his fellow volunteers found.

"We're finding a lot of packing material like cardboard, foam and banding material," Hamel said. "This is stuff that probably came in with parts that we bought."

"It really goes back to understanding who the stakeholders are in our business," Powers said. "Our customers and employees are stakeholders, but the prime stakeholder is the community itself."

Hamel said if the company has enough foam, it will be able to get the attention of a recycler.

"Other stuff we have yet to find a source that will take, which is why we're working with Jan Foster," Hamel said.

Foster, a volunteer from Waste Reduction Partners Land-of-Sky Regional Council, said her agency was asked by Thermo Fisher Scientific/Asheville to help identify ways to reduce its waste stream and find recycling markets.

"We're going to look at the waste stream and estimate volumes," Foster said. "Knowing the estimated volumes really helps identify the potential market."

Foster said she thinks the company may even reach its goal of zero landfill waste before 2015.

"Thermo Fisher has a highly effective green team," she said. "There's only a handful of companies in the entire U.S. who have achieved a zero waste goal. Thermo Fisher is well on their way to achieving that goal.

"The fact that this many people have volunteered to sort through a dumpster is really impressive. They've done a great job so far with their recycling program. We're not finding as many recyclables in the trash as I thought there would be."

Hamel said the experiment was very eye-opening.

"You start asking a lot of questions," he said. "Every bag has a story. Why is something in there? What could have been done differently?"

Wende Kimble, volunte er and executive assistant, agreed.

"It's very eye-opening to see all the things that we've been throwing away that we have an opportunity to recycle. I'm really excited about it actually," Kimble said.

Kimble said she has learned that employees need to be better educated about recycling.

"I'm really proud that Thermo Fisher is making this a priority. Hopefully, we can be an example not only for our community but also other sites in our company," she said.

Hamel said he thinks the volunteers will remember the experiment for a long time.

"They're going to talk about it when they go back to work," he said.

"We're from many different areas, so there will be lots of conversations about this for quite awhile. I'm just thrilled to be a part of this experience. This makes it fun to come to work."

FACTS:

Industrial waste

o 7.6 billion tons of industrial solid waste generated by American industries annually.
o 71,763 tons of hazardous waste generated in North Carolina each year.
Source: EPA

o Buncombe County residents recycled 45,285 tons and sent 115,083 tons to the landfill in 2010.

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