ENVIRONMENTAL STANDARD HAS WIDE IMPLICATIONS BUT OFFERS MANY POSITIVE OUTCOMES
Reg Pearce, Health, Safety & Environmental Advisor of Adaptaflex Ltd.
Some 12 months ago Adaptaflex, Europe's largest manufacturer of flexible conduit systems, based in Coleshill, identified the environmental control standard, ISO 14001, pivotal to the future success of responsible companies.
The company is now the first within its industry sector to have achieved the standard and one that keeps the company on-track for continuous improvement on environmental management systems.
We have effectively delivered the standard, cost-effectively within 12 months of setting ourselves the goal, while in real terms the work is only just beginning.
The standard itself is really all about establishing an effective management system for all environmental issues and we looked right across the spectrum at energy usage, storage of hazardous substances, waste reduction and management, water usage, waste water and finite resources. We took a close look at all parts of the business with a view to their impact on the environment. We have reviewed all procedures and will continue to do so as part of the standard always seeking improvements and better energy efficiency.
As a standard what ISO14001 does is to provide the detailed framework for companies to manage their manufacturing processes, while integrating environmental considerations throughout the process. To facilitate this, every stage of the process is looked at in depth right from the original design consideration through to the raw material usage, manufacture and disposal of surplus material and bi-products of the process. It really does allow you to consider every stage and , as a result, look at your efficiency in far greater detail.
Everyone creates waste within the working environment, be it paper, cardboard, disposable cups, printer cartridges etc. The vast majority of this can be recycled in one form or another and the exercise within a company is to fully convey this message to everyone. This we have done successfully at Adaptaflex, with environmental awareness uppermost in people's minds.
For example with water as with many other finite commodities, we have had to follow through a complete audit of generation and disposal involving the Environment Agency and Water company. Following this we now have established procedures which involved briefings for employees and well as specific training for individuals. This has to be thorough to ensure that everyone is fully aware of their responsibilities and those of the company on the relevant environmental procedures.
Documentation and recording for subsequent analysis and re-assessment play major roles. Discussions with other Volution Holdings companies were invaluable and while their waste streams were, in the main, totally different to ours the approach was the same and so it was extremely useful in the formulation of procedures.
As the site is located next to the river it is potentially a high risk and some considerable time had to be allocated to establishing procedures to prevent, investigate and deal with potential spillages.
Like many manufacturers, product waste is one of the biggest considerations and the task was to investigate and develop ways we could reduce that waste and methods we could employ to re-cycle. We have and continue to develop ways in which we can reduce the waste by developing improvements in production. This will reduce waste at source, cut down on materials used and reduce our energy costs. All positive outcomes as a direct result of ISO 14001.
For example on the production of non-metallic conduit we collect all the data on production set-up, scrap and waste trails, hold regular meetings with production and quality control, identify and develop improvements to reduce scrap. It might even be a case of further operator training. We put our findings forward as a plan of action and subsequently get this implemented as part of our continuous improvement cycle.
The most challenging areas are the different waste streams involving complex re-processing procedures, but identifying different actions to reduce the waste has already made significant contributions.
As a company we now have 7 or 8 waste contractors all specifically established to look after particular waste trails on our behalf. Our procedures have to be impeccable as do our contractors with full traceability and accountability being paramount.
The establishment of detailed Environmental Product Declarations (EPDs) are a subsequent part of ISO 14001 and already Adaptaflex is well under way with establishing these. The EPDs take a close and detailed look at major products and their effects on the environment through their life cycle. This has far wider implications starting with raw materials, the manufacturing process, delivery to end user, including transportation, operational life and subsequent disposal.
Key to all of this is a detailed re-look at products with a view to the environment helping to reduce waste, saving energy costs and becoming more efficient. As the standard is taken up more and more companies will be exchanging information on their products the production trails and the waste steams and more clearly we will all become increasingly aware of the implications.
Perhaps the clearest picture can be painted by our own domestic waste. Currently, between 65 to 70% of the UK's domestic waste goes to landfill sites and we are only scratching the surface when it comes to environmental awareness and re-cycling, but every bit counts. In Germany the figure of waste to landfill is 15% and every home and public place has colour coded bins for disposal and recycling.
In industry we are not too bad and are continually improving, but domestically we have a long way to go much of which is down to the local authorities and their own waste disposal programmes.
Investment in the environmental standard is already paying off for Adaptaflex. For many businesses it will become an increasingly important requirement, not least because of the supply chain demands as well as partnerships and sharing of information between manufacturers involved in joint projects.
3 June 2003