Environmental and sustainability matters have to be urgently addressed in all manufacturing industries, as concerns regarding improper disposal methods regarding wastewaters, packaging waste and waste resulting from the manufacturing process are at a peak. The industrial revolution and population growth are the most prominent motivators when it comes to increasing the production volumes in the manufacturing sector, but unfortunately, environmental and sustainability matters arise as well. Below are presented some steps that manufacturing companies should take to reduce the footprint left on the environment as part of their activity.
Waste generation statistics and data at the level of the European Union
In a report of Eurostat from May 2017, the European Union generated as a whole, more than 2.5 million tonnes of waste (reported at the year of 2014). Obviously, the waste amount varies from country to country, based on the level of economic and industrial development.
- The mining and construction industries seem to be the biggest generators of mineral waste, with a ratio of 75% of the total waste generated in 2014 at the level of member countries.
- Hazardous waste generation at an EU level reached in 2014 almost 100 million tonnes, which has the potential, besides being a big environmental pollutant, to cause severe medical affections and conditions to the population in those countries with the highest rates of hazardous waste generation.
- Waste generation rates in other sectors, excluding mineral and hazardous waste, are also on high, but decreasing compared to the previous years. Water and waste services (approx. 200 million tonnes), household (approx. 200 million tonnes) and the manufacturing sectors (a bit over 180 million tonnes) come close when it comes to debris production.
This data comes in the context in which the European Union is putting continuous efforts into decreasing waste generation, increasing sustainability and resource responsibility amongst citizens, and the largest waste generators. With an objective of mutating the European society, at least at the level of the member states, into a recycling-focused society, the directions and recommendations of the intergovernmental entity are clear, as presented in the 7th Environment Action Programme:
- Increase the recycling and re-use rates within the Union’s borders;
- Reduce the amount of waste generated by each state member;
- Limit and potentially eliminate the use of incineration of non-recyclable materials;
Recommendations for a proper approach on waste disposal in the manufacturing sector
In the beginning, we mentioned that the industrial revolution and the continuously growing population of the world are influencing the amount of waste generated by each nation. With a growing society, more waste of which those have to dispose of also increases in volume; and as burying the waste in landfill is a common practice, this seems to be a rising issue for all modern communities. The waste disposal experts and engineers at Miltek in France recommend manufacturing companies to implement technological solutions that enable them to compact the waste, reduce its volume and then dispose of it safely for the environment. Recycling is a suitable option, as such equipment allows safe and secure handling of the waste of various nature until reaching a recycling site.
By-products resulting from the manufacturing process also have to be handled carefully. However, certain solutions that can be found on the market currently overlook environmental concerns and opt for cost-effective, but not environmental-friendly waste disposal methods. On the other hand, manufacturers have the option to implement new, modern practices that will decrease the by-products that result from the manufacturing process or even find new uses for those. A circular economy model can be adapted to reuse a product after reaching the end of its life cycle and repurpose parts of it, reaching a zero-waste society. Google, Philips and other giants in the electronic manufacturing industry are some extremely suitable and successful examples of attempts at a circular economy model.
Climate Change: From Myth to Facts
Another burning environmental concern that has to be urgently addressed is climate change. Although many still choose to challenge the truth behind climate change, the glacial retreat, sea levels rise, extreme weather and the acidification of the seawater are here to prove that something is happening in this regard.
- Deforestation is a threat at the address of the climate, not only at the address of the wildlife; it’s a true event, and it appears when manufacturing companies in the furniture manufacturing sector are illegally deforesting areas to decrease production expenses (see IKEA’s case in Romania).
- CO2 emissions also have an immense effect on climate change. The most significative amounts of CO2 are released into the air into the process of burning fossil fuels.
- Methane is also a gas that is one of the biggest triggers for climate change, also released into the air by manufacturers in various industries.
- Aerosols are not as notorious when it comes to greenhouse gas emissions as those above, but their impact is an undeniable one. While the effect of aerosols on the climate can be either a cooling or a warming one, the consequences can be catastrophic.
- Manufacturing industries are another big cause of global warming; as a result of the Industrial Revolution, a slight increase of the global temperature appeared. Also, after the second world war, the global temperature knew a slight decline, but this happened because of the post-war industrial revolution, in which cooling aerosols were used preponderantly.
Premature death in new-borns, famine, disappearing species, an Earth that cannot sustain life, these can be expected if urgent steps towards a better environment, efficient waste disposal practices, sustainable ways of using the resources are not implemented. An environment which cannot sustain further industrial development is no longer useful for the big players in the manufacturing sectors. Thus, solutions for the issues presented above are mandatory. New waste disposal management equipment, new economic models, new regulations and a more responsible attitude from the manufacturing industry are expected to decrease the footprint left on the environment by human activity.