Helping you reduce waste in the workplace

Here Ashley Davis from Kimberly Clark provides scientists and lab technicians with tips for a waste walk.

One of the best ways to begin a waste reduction journey is to conduct a waste walk or a series of waste walks, depending on the size of your organisation. A well-planned walk can help determine the opportunities for optimising management of waste streams and help you figure out what can be diverted.

A waste walk, also known as a Gemba Walk in the long running waste management practice of Lean and Six Sigma, means taking the time to watch how a process is done and talking with those who do the job.

Here are five tips for a successful Waste Walk:

1. Visit your organisation’s receiving area

You need to understand what is coming into your facility and where it’s being used.

2. Map it out in advance

Don’t view your Waste Walk as a casual stroll through your facility.  A Waste Walk should be properly planned and supported by all stakeholders at the site.

3. Document key details

Someone should be on hand to capture key information including photos of your waste, collection points and shipping containers and to do this at different times throughout a day.

4. Pay attention to behaviour and practices

Make sure to observe and take note of the behavior of personnel around waste management, waste and material flow throughout the site, as well as the location of all collection bins and disposal fees for waste tonnages.

5. Get leadership buy-in and stakeholder alignment

Leadership on the scope of work and key waste contributors should be involved from the start. Align on outcomes and set timelines for mapping out your waste reduction plan. End users should also be included since they will ultimately be involved in implementing your waste reduction plan.

What comes next? Once you have as much detail as possible from your Waste Walk, you can begin prioritizing the work ahead. Make sure to assess the:

  • Largest volumes of waste
  • Largest valued materials
  • Easiest solutions
  • Most challenging solutions

After this, you need to determine solutions for your waste. If you have in-house experts in waste and recycling, lean on them to help you assess the composition of your materials and your waste streams as well as specific recycling solutions.

If not, try reaching out to a local waste management organisation for ‘simple’ waste such as paper, cardboard and general trash. For other waste, such as rubber, PPE, electronics or polymers, you may need to find a waste consultant who specializes in diverting these more complex waste streams.

When choosing a waste and recycling management partner, ensure that they:

  • Provide contracts with clearly outlined expectations.
  • Supply financial and compliance information.
  • Provide access to diversion data.

Last, remember that a waste and recycling journey takes time. You can’t get there all at once, nor can you do it alone. Choose partners who will assist you in your journey. This could include manufacturer-led initiatives for recycling certain consumables, such as PPE, and ‘middlemen’ who will help provide your waste with a second life. Whatever you do, take your time, be thorough and choose reputable partners with a proven and verifiable track record of success.

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