Going green

Area industry finding being eco-friendly helps keep more ‘green’ on bottom line

Blount County industry is learning that meeting their bottom line everyday means putting less in garbage cans and more in recycling bins.

Denso has been working toward a more environmentally friendly plant in their manufacturing process since 1999 with the Echo Vision 2005 program. “Now it’s Echo Vision 2010, and we’ve made targets more aggressive,” said Bob Booker, manager of legal, environmental, engineering and community relations/communications. “Our first focus has been on landfill reduction from the manufacturing processes and that’s where we’ve achieved a 95 percent landfill reduction from waste generated on the production floor.”

Booker said everyone at the Maryville location is looking to reduce waste. This has made the Maryville plant one of the most successful sites in the company.

“In 1999, we sent 2,812 tons of waste to landfill,” he said. “This past year, 2007, it was 107 tons from manufacturing.”

Mike Fontinell, environmental engineering staff member, said the associates at Denso had great leadership that gave them the resources and manpower to make this happen. Once top management supported the recycling program, all the associates came on board and started contributing ideas.

“It was through their ideas we were able to get landfill reductions. Different people had ideas, like coming up with recycling carts. Before we had one container and associates came up with the idea for a cart with different containers - one for paper, plastic, cardboard and a really small section for trash,” he said.

Fontinell said each area is different because they make different things. “One area may have more cardboard. It depends on where they’re located in the plant,” he said.

Fontinell said associates take a lot of pride in the recycling program at their workplace. “My hope is they are starting to do things at home. You get in the environmental mindset at work, and you take that home,” he said.

Booker said the associates are very active in the community with such events as Earth Roundup. “We see that with associates saying their kids love doing those things,” he said. “It’s a win-win situation.”

Booker said there are about 3,000 personnel at the plant. “We have 2,600 full-time and 400 to 500 contractors,” he said.

Fontinell said that in some cases recycling can be profitable and in others, not so much so. “When you recycle, certain things are difficult to recycle, and you have to pay and other things you generate revenue from; our goal has been zero net cost, and we’ve done that,” he said.

Fontinell said some electronic waste wasn’t marketable. “We would have to pay transportation to get it to a recycling facility where as we can generate revenue from cardboard, so that offsets the transportation costs. You have to look at recycling as a whole,” he said.

Steve Dixon, owner of Spectra Recycling, makes a living helping companies recycle.

“In the immediate area we’ve seen Clayton Homes set up recycling programs. Ruby Tuesday is doing recycling in all downtown offices, and we’ve got some recycling set up in every school in the county and city as well as Seymour and Lenoir City,” he said.

Dixon said they’ve set up in 51 schools the last two years at no cost to them. In addition, businesses such as Smith Detection and Anderson Lumber Co. are putting forth a big effort to recycle a major portion of their material. “They’re really committed to it.”

Dixon said his company has set up for the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and has established collection centers on West Broadway Avenue near Wal-Mart, Foothills Mall and Lowes.

“We are seeing a major push on businesses to begin recycling. This includes everything from offices to industrial production,” Dixon said. “We’ve actually been overwhelmed by the number of people who have asked us to come in and take a look at the options they have for recycling.”

Dixon said he’s had carpet manufacturers and textile companies contacting him about recycling. Dixon said he has also spoken with management at Rockford Manufacturing, as they are interested in recycling and creating a zero-waste environment.

Recycling is good business, Dixon said. “Recycling has just about doubled every year. It is growing about as fast as we can keep up with it,” he said.

Bryan Daniels, vice president of the Economic Development Board, said more manufacturers in Blount County are becoming environmentally aware. “What we’ve seen with manufacturers here is, due to the high price of material and component parts, are companies that are becoming more diligent in their waste and trying to improve on processes that create a lot of waste,” he said. “Just about all companies coming into the county have recycle value. The market is dictating how everyone should recycle because raw materials are so expensive. It is in the best interest of all concerned to recycle as much as possible.”

Greg Wittbecker, director of corporate metal recycling strategy at Alcoa, Inc., Tennessee Operations, said aluminum recycling has been a basic element of Alcoa for some time. “A number of years ago our senior management made a commitment to increasing the percentage of recycled content in all fabricated products,” he said. “We established a goal of 50 percent recycled content in our products.”

Wittbecker said that while the company recycles aluminum cans, it also recycles all types of aluminum found all over the world. “In a typical year, Alcoa produces 4 million tons of virgin aluminum, but at same time we buy about 1 million metric tons of aluminum scrap in various forms,” he said. “Even though we’re typically considered a primary aluminum producer, we buy about 25 percent in scrap, which goes into a whole host of aluminum products.”

Molecular Pathology Laboratory Network, Inc. recently started a recycling initiative at their facilities on East Broadway Avenue.

Lisa Greene, materials manager and environmental ambassador, is leading MPLN’s initiative to create a cleaner and greener work place.

In 2007, MPLN started its “Going Green with Lisa Greene” campaign with an aluminum can recycling program and monthly tips to employees about ways they can be greener at work and at home. The going green program recently expanded to include recycling of toner cartridges, cardboard and mixed papers. MPLN has two 95-gallon containers and four 14-gallon containers for recycling these items.

“We continuously seek ways to create and promote an environmentally-friendly company in hopes of being an example to other laboratories and businesses,” Greene said. “It is also our hope to encourage employees to think greener and conserve more resources at work and at home.”

Employees are being more judicious with their resources, and a new process of how medical supplies are used and disposed of will save the lab approximately $6,600 per year. MPLN also changed the way distilled water is maintained, which will save $500 per year. In January, MPLN replaced its traditional fluorescent light bulbs and ballasts to an eco-efficient alternative that produce the same amount of light, but use less energy. With the implementation of the new lights, there is a potential savings of 3-5 percent on the laboratory’s annual electric bill.

“Our goal is to do what we can to help preserve the earth’s resources. We also strive to learn more about being eco-friendly and pass that information along to our employees,” Greene said.

MPLN founder, president and CEO Roger Hubbard said the company is committed to responsible environmental stewardship in business practices by minimizing the overall environmental impact of our operations. “Our efforts in conscientious waste management, efficient energy utilization, and conservation and preservation of natural resources go hand in hand to ensure that our company remains a good corporate citizen in this community.”

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