Fulfilling our commitment to Zero Waste to Landfill
Whirlpool Corp. first set our goal to reach Zero Waste to Landfill (ZWtL) in 2012, and we have continued to invest in plant efficiency and waste reduction—working closely with recyclers and sustainability vendors to find new, innovative ways to eliminate waste and contribute to the circular economy. This goal was updated in 2020 to align with the UL ECVP 2799 ZWtL standard (self-certification), which represents achieving between 95% and 100% diversion from landfills. We work through the implementation of the WCM methodology and the Environmental pillar, which uses the 5Rs (Reject, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Recover) tool to reduce and manage waste. Over the past few years, we have also shifted our attention to hazardous waste generation, and Whirlpool Corp. has set a new target starting in 2023 to reduce its hazardous waste generation intensity by 1% year over year (YOY).
Many of these changes come from changing aspects of our operations, such as modifying processes to reduce the amount of scrap generated, and also from working with new waste vendors. However, waste management also requires continuously improving employee-driven processes like waste sorting. In order to improve awareness and ensure proper waste segregation, teams at our manufacturing sites perform regular training and also do periodic inspections or audits on the shop floor (Environmental Management Audits) which include providing feedback to employees when improper sorting is verified. Our Latin America region team, for example, has developed and implemented a multi-faceted approach to improve waste sorting, which includes improving conditions (visual management, availability of waste bins, use of standard operational procedures), training employees, performing audits, monitoring through cameras in key points and recognizing employees for their efforts.
- Obtained ZWtL Gold Level (a greater than 95% diversion rate) at 100% of our large manufacturing sites, aligned with UL ECVP 2799 ZWtL standard, thereby avoiding the disposal of over 20,000 tons of waste into landfills in the past five years.
- Reduced approximately 23% of total waste generated and approximately 48% of hazardous waste generated in comparison with 2021 data.
- Completed UL training and pre-assessment of three manufacturing sites: Joinville (Latin America), Clyde (North America) and Cassinetta (EMEA).
- Defined a new global procedure for waste management to be implemented at all manufacturing sites beginning in 2023.
Achieving elite status in operational waste management
In 2022, all large manufacturing sites have achieved at least Gold level, including 14 sites that are self-declared Platinum level. Looking forward, we are seeking to achieve at least 97% diversion rate at all large manufacturing sites.
Our Faridabad site in India has been a ZWtL Platinum site for over two years. The maintenance of this status is possible due to a combination of efforts to reduce waste generation and to develop recycling suppliers. The site has one of the lowest waste generation rates of all Whirlpool Corp.’s sites, with only 1.2 kg of waste generated per product produced. The site has a special focus on the reduction of general waste that usually can’t be recycled or recovered. For example, disposables are not used for meals, and all of the organic waste from the cafeteria is composted on site.
A path forward in managing manufacturing waste
In order to assess our compliance with the UL ECVP 2799 standard and identify opportunities for improvement, in 2022 we hired UL to perform a training pre-assessment of three manufacturing sites: Joinville (Latin America), Clyde (North America) and Cassinetta (EMEA).
Based on the inputs from the UL training session, we worked to define a global standard for measuring and tracking Reject, Reduce and Reuse projects. Whirlpool Corp.’s definition is comprehensive of the UL standard, but expands on the details, including, for example, the “Reject” category. Some of our sites are already consistently tracking these types of projects, which focus on reducing the amount of waste generated. In our Amana site, for example, Reject, Reduce and Reuse projects account for almost 60% of the total waste for diversion rate.
The UL third-party pre-assessments were also important in evaluating our compliance with the UL ECVP 2799 standard, and for this reason three sites in our largest regions were selected. This was an important step that opens our path toward a possible third-party certification in the future.
Updating our global waste management procedure
In 2022, we worked to set global procedures for our main focus topics in our “We Care” commitment, including waste management.
A global procedure for waste management was developed in 2022, including, among others, the minimum requirements for vendor qualification, including on-site audits for hazardous waste vendors. This global procedure, in addition to putting another layer of control around waste handling, storage and transportation, facilitates more standardization of our processes across different sites and regions.
Reducing waste generation
In 2022, Whirlpool Corp. reduced our absolute waste generation by approximately 23%, largely influenced by the decrease in production volumes. The waste intensity has remained at a similar level as the team focused its efforts on 5R projects across sites, including the following:
The Logistics and Environmental pillar from WCM has worked to increase by almost 20% the amount of returnable packaging used in inbound logistics from 2018 to 2022, which has reduced the amount of wood waste generated per product produced.
Our manufacturing site in Marion treats its industrial wastewater on-site, which results in solids that are currently sent to landfill. While other disposal options are being considered, Marion reduced by almost 50% the weight of solids being sent to landfill by installing a fan and dehumidifier in addition to a filter press.
A Marion assembly engineer worked with multiple departments and WCM pillar teams to correct the way two parts were being assembled to eliminate the defects, which, in turn, minimizes rejected parts, thereby reducing the amount of scrap by approximately 10 tons per year. The project also reduced injuries at this assembly station and improved the quality of our product for consumers.
Our hazardous waste generation has been reduced by a decrease in production and due to projects such as our focus on reducing oil consumption in two of our Mexico sites. New filter technologies helped reduce the level of contamination and extend the useful life of the oil. In one site, this project saved more than three tons of oil per year, or around 20%. In the other site, oil generation decreased by more than half in 2022.
Virada Sustentável Manaus, Brazil | Hands-on Action
In Manaus, Brazil, on November 6, Whirlpool Corp. was present at “Virada Sustentável,” considered the biggest sustainability festival in Latin America. There were more than 50 free activities in the city with the objective of engaging the population in the conservation of the environment and the Amazon rain forest. Volunteer employees participated in a “hands-on” activity, cleaning and removing solid waste from the side of the Tarumã River.
Internal and external collaborations to achieve and maintain ZWtL
In order to maintain our ZWtL status, different functions within the organization need to be engaged and work together, especially Environment, Health and Safety (EHS), Logistics, Industrial Engineering and Procurement. Waste brokers and waste vendors are also engaged to develop new alternatives for waste reduction, reuse and/or recycling. In honor of the one-year anniversary of achieving ZWtL Platinum Level, some of our sites in Mexico held an internal celebration in recognition of the combined efforts of the whole team and to renew their commitment.
In Supsa, Mexico, we combined ZWtL with social responsibility. Wood scrap generated at the site was reused to build benches that were then donated to a local adoption center called “Ministérios de amor.” Volunteers from the institution joined efforts with the site team to assemble the donated benches.
World Cleanup Day
On September 17, 2022, Whirlpool Corp. celebrated World Cleanup Day. Sites were invited to sign up and plan an event, big or small. The goal was to take action and make an impact, and our plants met the challenge:
- Our Manaus, Brazil, plant hosted a volunteer event to promote the cleanup of a local indigenous community and the planting of trees. For each volunteer, Whirlpool Manaus donated a food basket to the community.
- In Cassinetta, Italy, 24 members of our procurement team, product organization and Operational Excellence teams celebrated the day by collecting 240 kg of garbage from the roads surrounding the factory.
- On Iowa State Parks and Forests Volunteer Day, the Iowa Department of Natural Resources sponsored a statewide park cleanup effort. Our Amana, Iowa, plant employees worked with the Boy Scouts to complete an Eagle Scout project with landscaping support at Lake MacBride State Recreation Area, including clearing invasive plants from surrounding established trees, harvesting grass seeds (at least three varieties) for future prairie restoration projects and building a lean-to shed for the Department of Natural Resources.