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Houston, We Have a Solution!

by Krystina Beck

When Orora decided to consolidate two separate business entities into one centralized Houston facility, it presented a unique opportunity for sustainable design. The original intention to consolidate the locations was to reduce operational costs, save space, and increase productivity but it ended up creating a model design for a Zero Waste facility.

The team analyzed current processes and prioritized projects that would make the biggest impact. This led to creating a new process to route orders from both businesses together resulting in lower miles driven, reduced fuel consumption, and lower emissions. To reduce electricity consumption, motion sensor lights were installed throughout the warehouse and inventory was organized through slotting optimization to minimize forklift travel time leading to reducing power usage while the equipment recharges.

They also found many opportunities for sustainable impact hidden in their facility supplies through:

  • Dilution control chemicals to reduce chemical waste and packaging for cleaners
  • Switching from foam to paper cups, plates and bowls for easier recycling
  • Controlled feed towel and soap dispensing systems to reduce waste
  • 100% recycled towels and tissue to start on the right foot
  • Green Seal certified hand soap for trustworthy quality and ingredients

These areas alone were great improvements over previous processes, but the team was specifically looking for ways to reduce landfill waste. Through partnerships with third-party experts and internal evaluations, they were able to find opportunities to drastically reduce the site’s waste to landfill by a staggering 90%. Reducing waste by almost 100% is no small feat but the team was not intimidated by this substantial goal and came up with a game plan that revolved around two areas:

Team Engagement and Education

While there are technically a few “i”s in sustainability, it requires teamwork to make a lasting change. It’s important to keep team members engaged & invested in the process in order to make progress. Throughout the consolidation, there were multiple discussions and training for the team on all the new processes and the importance of the changes that will help the site reach its lofty sustainability goals.

Recycling

After conducting a waste audit through a third party, the team found that corrugated, stretch film, strapping, and pallets were the top items contributing to the current waste at both locations and could easily be recycled or re-used. Next, the team:

  • Installed a compactor for recyclable items only: corrugated, stretch film, strapping, and all of the other recyclable items from the offices and breakrooms
  • Sourced and partnered with the right recycling partner that would allow for a mixed container. “Mixed recycling” means that the items like paper, cardboard, glass, metal, and plastic can be disposed of together. Most companies allow a small percentage of actual waste to accidentally go into the recycling without a penalty, and the Houston location’s average waste percentage is less than 5%
  • Bought and distributed blue recycling tilt trucks throughout the warehouse, which allows the team to dump the recyclable items into the compactor with ease. They also placed gray containers for all other waste for easy identification
  • Added specialized recycling streams throughout the offices and breakrooms for easy recycling
  • Broken pallets are gathered and sent back to the pallet provider to be refurbished or for the wood to be reused

Sustainability is Orora’s promise to the future. Incremental change, like recycling at a single location or changing facility supplies to be more sustainable, can lead to big results and even bigger impact. The Houston team learned many lessons along the way, leading to big improvements and a reduction of 90% waste to landfill, setting the standard for the rest of Orora’s sites across the globe.

Houston, we have a solution!

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