The more efficient we are in using materials to make our products, the less waste we produce, the fewer resources we consume and the more money we save. That is why we first work toward absolute material utilization throughout our manufacturing processes followed by eliminating, minimizing, reusing and recycling the waste materials we do produce.
We employ waste mapping to track waste streams back to their sources in our facilities worldwide. Using lean manufacturing methodologies, each facility eliminates or minimizes the identified wastes one source at a time, typically starting with the highest-volume or highest-cost waste stream identified through the mapping process. We explore reuse and recycling options for wastes that remain.
Our Resource Management Subcommittee of our Sustainability Committee is helping us move beyond manufacturing to other areas in the company, such as product formulation and raw materials management, where waste can be eliminated or minimized.
We measure our performance through total waste disposal, which includes landfilled, incinerated and treated waste. Due in part to recent divestitures, we met our goal of a 10 percent reduction in our total waste disposal intensity by 2020 from a 2012 baseline in 2016. We set the following new goals for 2018 onward:
- 25 percent reduction in total waste disposal intensity by 2025 from a 2017 baseline.
- Achieve zero landfill status from process waste at 35 percent of PPG manufacturing and research and development locations by 2025.
In 2017, we disposed of 169,382 metric tons of waste, which was a 19 percent reduction from prior year and 8 percent from 2012. Our total waste disposal intensity declined 4 percent from 2016 and 15 percent from the 2012 baseline.
Some of our past waste-disposal methods, which were legal and accepted industry practices in their time, can require environmental remediation or land reclamation to meet today’s regulations, our stringent internal standards or stakeholder expectations.
We use a life cycle approach to assess and manage environmental issues and impacts at all of our facilities. A site assessment, which we require at various stages in a facility’s life cycle, provides an environmental evaluation according to standard industry practices. The assessment determines what, if any, remediation activities or restrictions will be implemented to meet our ultimate goal—each facility is in a condition in which it can be reused safely and productively.
Read about specific remediation projects in our 2017 annual report.
Spills and Remediation
Our facilities have strong management practices in place to prevent spills and releases, and our corporate spill-elimination standard requires the establishment of a spill-elimination program at each facility.
The program consists of the following steps:
- Assessment of a facility’s spill elimination performance;
- Improvement plans based on prioritized assessment of risk;
- Corrective action plan with defined dates; and
- Completion of planned action.
An effective tool used by our locations is spill-elimination workshops. During these events, employees from various functions use a rapid improvement process and checklist to assess their facilities to identify areas for immediate improvement, as well as opportunities for longer-term action planning.
We track our progress by measuring total spills and releases per 1,000 employees. Our thresholds for reporting a spill are stringent, allowing us to identify issues before they become significant. These thresholds vary by material and government-reportable levels, with the lowest threshold at 11 pounds (5 kilograms). Our median spill in 2017 was 550 pounds (249 kilograms), with 99 percent contained onsite.
Our goal is at least a 10 percent year-over-year improvement in our spills and releases rate. While we’ve achieved a 21 percent reduction from 2012, we fell short of our goal in 2017 with a 24 percent increase over prior year. Key factors were an increased emphasis on preventive maintenance, more movement of containers holding liquids and human error when transferring liquids from tanks.
In mid-2017, we launched the Walk the Line initiative to refocus our employees on spill prevention. Operators are required to walk the production line prior to transferring a liquid from one point to another. We are confident this will reduce incidents related to pumping liquid to a wrong tank or one that is already full, as well as leaving a drain valve open somewhere in the system.
We began seeing a decrease in spills in the latter part of 2017, and we expect that trend to continue in 2018. We will be implementing a new goal to achieve at least a 65 percent improvement in our spills and releases rate by 2025 from a 2017 baseline.