Finding New Ways to Manage Waste
When it comes to waste management, an old idea is taking a new direction. In
ancient times, cultures around the world wasted nothing in terms of resources.
Their survival depended upon maximizing what the environment made available to
them. For years, companies committed to sustainability have aspired to attain
that same goal, with a focus on the waste management hierarchy: Reduce,
Reuse, Recycle and Recover. The goal is to move our waste up the hierarchy,
with the ultimate goal of reducing to zero waste.
Dow Corning has remained steadfast to keeping Reduce as one of its
highest priorities – whether it’s reducing the amount of waste generated in
the manufacturing process or reducing energy consumption. It simply makes sense
to avoid generating waste in the first place.
The second step in the hierarchy is Reuse, which either extends a
product’s life or reuses the same material, but in a new product. Consider one
Dow Corning example: A by-product generated during the production of a raw
material for tires is being used as a valuable raw material in an entirely
different process – now improving the manufacture and performance of wires,
cables, consumer goods and automotive parts.
The third step is Recycle. Materials that cannot be reused in their
original form may be “converted” into new use. Dow Corning’s Materials
Conversion program is converting, or recycling, its waste, scrap and off-spec
silicone materials that were previously land-filled or incinerated. The
materials are converted and used in new and existing applications where they
meet customers' specifications.
However, despite all these efforts, some material still ends up in the waste
stream. To extract value from the waste stream, we have moved to the next level
in the hierarchy, which is Recover. In certain cases, we are able to
send waste material for energy recovery. This is another way that we are
creatively transforming a problem into a solution.
No single approach is sufficient to address the problem of waste, but
together, these initiatives are helping Dow Corning reduce its
environmental footprint. That’s a step in the right direction.
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