Facility Retrofit: Zero Waste Manufacturing

In Rochester, NY, Diamond Packaging improved recycling rates and explored Energy-from-Waste to boost sustainability at two facilities.

zero waste manufacturing

In September 2014, this packaging manufacturer announced it had achieved zero manufacturing waste to landfill status, an important milestone towards meeting the company’s future goal of sending zero waste to landfill.

Eric Longnecker, senior buyer at Diamond Packaging, describes the process used to redirect manufacturing waste.

By Facility Executive Staff
From the March/April 2016 Issue

Please describe Diamond Packaging operations and the scope of this waste management initiative.

Founded in 1911, Diamond Packaging is a WBENC-certified company that designs and manufactures paperboard and plastic folding cartons, counter-top displays, and blister cards. In Rochester, NY, the company operates the Diamond Packaging folding carton plant (90,000 square feet) and the Diamond Contract Packaging fulfillment facility (86,000 square feet). These facilities employ 230 people, and the volume of material is 10,150 tons annually.

In 2011, Diamond interviewed several waste management companies to evaluate its processes and possible solutions to achieve zero landfill status.

A collaborative task force was formed with members from Diamond Packaging [and service partners] Cascades Recovery, Covanta Environmental Solutions, and Advanced Waste Solutions to audit manufacturing and recovery methods and seek positive end-of-life scenarios (solutions) for all waste streams.

Using SMART criteria (Specific, Measurable, Action-Oriented, Realistic, and Time Bound), Diamond set the following targets in 2012 as these relate to recovery and recycling. The company had already been recycling over 96% of its waste, and the targets set in 2012 addressed the remaining waste not being repurposed. These goals were:

  1. Increase recovery and recycling of manufacturing related waste 1% per year for the next four years (4% total), in order to achieve zero manufacturing waste to landfill (ZMWL) status. This accounts for all waste related to the manufacture of folding cartons, including paperboard, plastic, metal, industrial waste, and regulated waste, with the exception of construction and demolition (C&D) waste. This would be achieved through increased recycling efforts and energy recovery methods, such as Energy-from-Waste (or EfW).
  2. Increase recovery and recycling of C&D waste by 25% per year for the next four years (100% total), in order to achieve zero waste to landfill (ZWL) status, which will encompass all waste from Diamond’s facilities. This will also be achieved through increased recycling efforts and energy recovery methods, such as Energy-from-Waste (EfW).

The task force explored various options for disposing of the last 3-4% of waste, which was difficult to recycle at best. Eventually, the team found solutions that not only achieved the “triple bottom line” of social, environmental, and financial benefits but also delivered additional benefits, including the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions due to the proximity of our New York based recycling and waste management company, Cascades Recovery.

What was the motivating factor for Diamond Packaging to pursue zero manufacturing waste to landfill status?

Diamond has long been committed to working toward a cleaner environment. In 2007 the company formed its “Green Team,” a select group of company personnel, to develop its Diamond greenbox initiative to research, design, and implement packaging solutions that are innovative and sustainable.

zero waste manufacturing
In the recycling room at Diamond Packaging, paperboard, plastics, metals, and spent bulbs are handled. The company also recycles all office paper, printer toner, and e-waste. (Photo: Diamond Packaging)

The core of Diamond’s greenbox initiative—designs, materials, and methods—represents a comprehensive approach to packaging that minimizes environmental impact throughout the supply chain. The initiative affected every layer of Diamond’s business, requiring a total review of its design and packaging methods as well as the evaluation of all materials and suppliers in order to make the best recommendation for each product.

In November 2007 the company announced a commitment to purchase clean, renewable wind energy for 100% of its electrical energy requirements through wind energy marketer and developer Community Energy. And in May 2009 the company obtained Forest Stewardship Council® (FSC) Chain of Custody certification from the Rainforest Alliance.

The company’s ability to “right size” projects, in which the correct amount of material needed per project is carefully determined, had become second nature. Simultaneously, the company has recycled paperboard, while also finding better end-of-life uses for leftover metals, wood pallets, plastics, and additional materials.

Despite significant progress, the effort was far from finished. In 2011 Diamond began to pursue a goal of zero landfill as an extension of its greenbox initiative, to serve as a model for other industry and local business leaders, and to achieve the triple bottom line of social, environmental, and financial benefits.

Although the company was recycling more than 96% of its waste, several challenges existed:

  • What would the waste stream consist of?
  • Could the waste stream be reduced even further?
  • What positive end-of-life solutions could be found for the remaining 3-4% of waste that had limited recycling options?
  • Where could the waste go to avoid landfill?
  • Could recycling rates be increased for less marketable materials (e.g., plastic and metal barrels, die cutting tooling, etc.)?

How did you and your team research the options? And how did you arrive at the final decision to work with service providers you chose?

A collaborative task force was created to audit manufacturing and recovery methods and seek positive end-of-life scenarios (solutions) for all waste streams. This group included representatives from Cascades Recovery, Covanta Environmental Solutions, and Advanced Waste Solutions (now part of Covanta Environmental Solutions).

A strict analysis of our operational methods provided a critical opportunity for the implementation of impactful sustainability practices, from concept to completion. Specifically, the company foresaw greatly enhanced recycling, energy efficiency and process improvements, and the opportunity to reuse materials as clean energy.

Due to its support, capabilities, and proximity to Diamond’s facilities, Covanta proved to be a natural choice to partner with to achieve Diamond’s goals [for the Energy-from-Waste initiative].

How has the Energy-from-Waste initiative impacted how you and your staff do your work?

This initiative is a natural evolution of the company’s greenbox initiative, but one that required initial training of all employees, internal and external audits, and continued review of new materials entering the waste stream.

Diamond’s Green Team meets regularly to monitor performance and update reporting.

What have the results been?

In September 2014 Diamond announced that it had achieved zero manufacturing waste to landfill status, becoming the first American-owned folding carton manufacturer to do so. [While not certified by an outside third-party organization, Diamond maintains records to self-certify.]

zero waste manufacturing
Diamond Packaging is a member of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Green Power Leadership Club, recognized for its 100% use of green power during 2014. (Photo: Diamond Packaging)

To achieve this status, Diamond’s two manufacturing facilities reduced overall waste streams and increased recycling rates to approximately 98%. All remaining waste is sent for fuels blending or to Covanta for energy recovery, eliminating the need for landfill disposal. The Covanta Energy-from-Waste facility offers a safe, technologically advanced means of beneficially reusing Diamond’s waste material while also generating clean energy, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and supporting recycling through the recovery of metals.

Diamond has continued to forge new partnerships, eventually finding a way to “close the loop” on its manufacturing reuse. Today, the company is the start and end point for its own waste stream. With the help of Covanta, as well as additional partners, the waste stream that leaves Diamond’s facilities eventually returns to it in the form of raw materials.

The unmarketable materials now going to Covanta through Cascades Recovery, along with regulated non-hazardous waste from Diamond delivered through Covanta Environmental Solutions, are used to produce steam. The steam created at Covanta is used to power neighboring Greenpac Mill LLC, a containerboard mill.

Greenpac Mill LLC, a joint venture between Cascades Recovery’s parent company Cascades Inc. and three other containerboard companies, produces lightweight liner board made of 100% recycled fiber. The recycled fiber it consumes includes Diamond’s corrugated waste, which is delivered by Cascades Recovery. The linerboard that is produced by Greenpac is purchased by Diamond in the form of corrugated cases through Jamestown Container, one of the principals of Greenpac Mill LLC. This process takes place within a 90 mile radius, resulting in shorter lead times, lower costs, and reduced carbon emissions.

Any other comments on this project, or lessons learned?

Diamond continues to measure its progress on environmental issues through the use of key measures on our corporate Strategic Metrics scorecard: total waste recycled, total regulated waste, and recovery and recycling. Diamond’s Green Team also meets on a regular basis to assess progress and determine future goals, including the greater use of recycled and FSC-certified materials, and achieving “zero landfill” status in 2016.

Visit the Diamond Packaging website at www.diamondpackaging.com. To learn more about Covanta Energy, visit www.covantaes.com

Have a question or comment on this project? Visit the Comments section below. To share your Facility Retrofit story, e-mail the Editor at acosgrove@groupc.com.