Our targets commit us to maintaining our 2008 levels of greenhouse gas, water and waste impacts against a backdrop of significant growth in our business. To build a detailed plan to achieve this, we reviewed the likely areas of growth from a geographic and product perspective. We also looked at the current environmental performance of all our sites.
As a result we identified a number of '‘levers’' or areas of potential change which will deliver reductions in our environmental impact, including waste. We asked all our manufacturing sites to assess themselves against these levers, which showed us where the opportunities for reductions lie. Projects have been identified by individual sites which, when implemented, will further reduce waste.
Progress on reducing waste from manufacturing
In 2012 we halved our waste disposed from manufacturing sites compared to our 2008 baseline in both absolute terms and per tonne of production, whilst growing our business. This significant milestone – which has far exceeded our initial target – was achieved through waste elimination and reduction activities and by diverting waste away from disposal routes such as landfill.
Our manufacturing systems measure the efficiency of conversion of raw materials and packaging materials into finished goods. Moving waste materials up the waste hierarchy for beneficial reuse, recycling or recovery, has equated to a cost saving of almost €10 million since 2008, achieved without the need for capital expenditure. In addition, reduction in waste in manufacturing since 2008 has avoided costs of €186 million. This clear financial benefit reinforces our belief that sustainability is good for business.
We were also able to divert waste away from disposal routes such as landfill through improved segregation of materials and better selection of recycling and reuse opportunities.
Reducing non-hazardous waste to landfill
In 2012 about 76,000 fewer tonnes of site waste were sent to landfill compared to our 2008 baseline. This is the equivalent of more than 1 million household bins of waste. By the end of 2012, over half of our 252 manufacturing sites achieved zero non-hazardous waste to landfill, up from 74 at the start of the year.
This has been achieved by eliminating waste in the factories. We also reduced, reused, recycled and recovered waste. For example, in Russia, Unilever recycles tea bags to make animal bedding or wallpaper. In the UK, we reduced the number of waste providers from 65 to one, maximising opportunities to identify recycling and beneficial recovery routes and achieving cost savings.
Our disposed waste measure includes hazardous and non-hazardous operational wastes from manufacturing sites that we do not reuse, recycle or recover. Our total disposed waste at the end of 2012 was 75,000 tonnes, of which a significant proportion originated from less than 5% of our manufacturing sites. We will focus on these sites in particular during 2013. Building on our good progress, in 2012 we set a stretching new target for 100% of our manufacturing sites to achieve zero non-hazardous waste to landfill by the end of 2015.
Hazardous waste and non-hazardous waste are two indicators that are being independently assured by PwC in 2013.
*This data is preliminary and will be updated with final figures after April 2013.