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6 Stories of Greener Materials Management

6 Stories of Greener Materials Management



Covanta is a leader in sustainable materials management providing environmental solutions to businesses and communities across North America. Through its network of facilities and state-of-the-art services, Covanta is a single-source partner in solving today's most complex environmental challenges.

Reducing, reusing, recycling and recovering resources from waste—the four “Rs” of sustainability—have long been key to reducing manufacturing’s environmental impact. Today, however, forward-thinking companies are striving to do even more by avoiding landfill disposal all together, achieving a status known as zero waste-to-landfill.

But zero waste-to-landfill isn’t just about keeping waste out of landfills—it’s about optimizing resource efficiency so that business benefits as much as the environment does. Here’s how raising the bar for their sustainability programs helped six manufacturers fast-track progress toward greener, more prosperous operations.


SunnyD: Sustainably Disposing of Packaged / Plastic Waste

Reducing, reusing and recycling initiatives had already cut the 140 tons of waste that beverage manufacturer SunnyD sent to landfills annually by half. With help from Covanta, the Sherman, Texas, company identified additional material to sell to recyclers, further reducing its waste volume and disposal costs, in addition to capitalizing on some of its other benefits. For the little waste that couldn’t be reused or recycled, SunnyD found that utilizing Covanta’s waste-to-energy services offered a more sustainable, greener materials management option.

Bottom Line: Today, SunnyD’s waste stream disposal has shrunk to approximately two tons per month. The company reached its goal of zero waste-to-landfill three years ahead of schedule and is within 2% of its recycle-reuse target.

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American Airlines: Liquid Waste Treatment Powers Business Success

American Airlines Wheel & Brake Center in Tulsa, Oklahoma, processes more than one million tons of tire rubber annually to recycle and reuse in other areas of business. But in order to be properly recycled, these tires must first be cleaned. As one might imagine, old tires are quite dirty, so the cleaning process results in a lot of liquid waste—a famously challenging and risky type of waste to deal with even when everything is done right. Although the company was already recycling more than half of the waste it produced, the Wheel & Brake Center wanted to do more. Covanta helped the company find a more sustainable, yet cost-effective, greener materials management option. Today, the manufacturer sends 800 tons of its liquid waste to Covanta to undergo treatment or liquid direct injection, which separates contaminants from the water, or destroys and vaporizes them, generating steam that powers a nearby refinery.

Bottom Line: Not only did the Wheel & Brake Center achieve its zero waste-to-landfill goals, but it’s also helping another business reduce its reliance on fossil fuels and won a Henry Bellmon Award for “setting the standards for sustainability in Oklahoma”.

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Fareva: Solving Pharmaceutical Waste Challenges

Global pharmaceutical manufacturer Fareva faced distinct challenges in reaching its zero waste-to-landfill goal. Non-hazardous pharmaceutical waste from the company’s Richmond, Virginia, plant couldn’t safely or compliantly be recycled or disposed of in the same way as traditional waste, as is often the case with these types of materials. The company enlisted Covanta’s end-to-end reverse distribution services to help. Covanta provided Fareva with solutions for securely collecting, transporting, tracking, destroying and certifying the destruction of its non-hazardous pharmaceutical waste in compliance with applicable regulations.

Bottom Line: In addition to reducing Fareva’s environmental impact, destroying such waste protects human and animal health and generates clean energy that the surrounding community can use. Fareva has garnered multiple awards for environmental excellence and is recognized as one of Virginia’s sustainability leaders—a reputation that attracts both customers and employees.

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Brewer Science: Receiving Recognition for E-Waste Recycling

E-waste reuse and recycling have long been standard operating procedure at Brewer Science, which develops and manufactures materials and processes for fabricating microdevices. Eager to take sustainability to the next level, the Rolla, Missouri, company sought to reach zero waste-to-landfill and have a third-party organization verify their accomplishment. The stumbling block: About 7% of the company’s waste couldn’t be reused or recycled and was going to landfills. To help Brewer Science achieve its greener materials management goals, Covanta performed a waste characterization to determine what was slipping through the cracks and how to best address it. To help employees keep the green push top-of-mind and drive the collection of their remaining materials, Covanta installed a large compactor that also assisted in transporting these materials to one of Covanta’s facilities. There, materials could further be recovered for recycling and have their leftovers processed into clean energy for surrounding communities.

Bottom Line: Brewer Science’s accomplishment of its zero waste-to-landfill goal was independently verified by third-party auditor GreenCircle Certified LLC, making it the first and only business in the microelectronics and semiconductor industry to earn such recognition.

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Subaru of America: Zero Waste-to-Landfill Generates Business Value

A pioneer in applying the four Rs to business, Subaru of America (SoA) is also the first auto assembly plant in the U.S. to achieve zero waste-to-landfill status—a goal it met two years ahead of schedule. SoA recycles approximately 185 pounds of the 215 pounds of waste each vehicle’s manufacture generates, but some non-hazardous waste that can’t be reused or recycled must still be disposed of. To increase what could be salvaged and keep what couldn’t be out of landfills, SoA’s worked with Covanta to identify more sustainable, greener materials management opportunities, ultimately shipping their last 3,000 tons of unrecyclable waste to Covanta every year, where it’s used to generate steam power for the local community.

Bottom Line: Over the past 15 years, the company’s sustainability efforts have cut the waste generated per vehicle by 53%, while enhancing product quality, improving line efficiency and reducing costs, accentuating the benefits of finding the right materials management partner.

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Greenpac Mill: Colocation Supports a Circular Economy

Greenpac Mill manufactures a lightweight linerboard made with 100% recycled fibers. But paper recycling still generates waste since not all recovered paper can be properly recycled. To solve the problem, the Niagara Falls, New York, company turned to Covanta. Whatever can’t be recycled, Covanta takes and processes. Through waste-to-energy technology, Greenpac’s leftover materials are incinerated to generate steam which is then used as energy. Some of that energy is used to power more than 15,000 homes in the community year-round, some is used by Greenpac Mill for use in drying paper and some is distributed and used by other nearby companies, a truly circular example of greener materials management.

Bottom Line: The waste-to-steam process eliminates nearly 12,000 tons of CO2e (carbon dioxide equivalent) emissions annually. Collocation near the Covanta facility reduces the cost and carbon footprint of transporting waste and energy, benefiting all companies involved.

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Leading the Way to a Zero-Waste Future

When it comes to the environment, there are always opportunities to do more to help. Manufacturers seeking to lead the way to a zero waste-to-landfill future must continually assess their company’s waste stream, look for ways to minimize it and identify sustainable options for materials management. By striving for continual improvement and progress toward more circular models of business, your organization can achieve its sustainability goals, enhance its reputation with customers and employees, and ultimately generate financial benefits from its waste management program.

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