Reduce. Reuse. Recycle – how we can all limit our environmental impact
With increasing focus from government, regulators, and the public on the importance of recycling, businesses are not immune to the call to demonstrate their green credentials. Environmental considerations however cannot be tackled in isolation, there is a collective responsibility that runs through the entire building supply chain.
Here, Stephen Keeping, our manager for HSEQ (Health, Safety, Environment and Quality), explains what we are doing to ensure we meet our environmental obligations and how we can support our customers to achieve theirs.
Built to last
It’s not unusual for us to get enquiries about spare parts for twenty-year-old systems, and we’re proud that our products are built to last. Our single biggest customer recently audited their after-installation parts spend, and found it to be just 2% of their total budget. And our spare parts register has been available to customers for 15 years.
Occasionally, the life of a turnstile can be extended by repurposing the unit. If a newer system with higher security is required for the location, think about whether the old unit can be reinstalled in another entrance or building.
Avoiding landfill – what are the options?
Eventually, any product will need to be replaced however landfill is obviously one of the possibilities for what happens next, and that’s what we’re trying to minimise.
In practice, the two main alternatives to landfill are EfW, which means energy from waste, and recycling.
For conversion to energy, we send the waste generated from our own manufacturing processes off to Lakeside, a thermal power station on the outskirts of London. It’s a huge facility, though much of the infrastructure isn’t actually about energy generation. Sustainability is their whole raison d’être, so they have multiple systems to capture any emissions. Waste, including our products, is incinerated, which generates steam to drive turbines and produce the energy. Even the ash that’s left over is used to make blocks for building!
Recycling starts with breaking down the product. Well, actually, it starts with manufacturing the product so that disassembly is straightforward. We’ve had sustainability as a corporate goal for many years now, so even our older products tend to use bolts rather than glue. We check every product for end-of-life issues. A recent one reviewed by our product management team had 139 fixings, only 10 of which were glue.
That means we can break down a unit pretty efficiently. The electronic components are sent to E-waste specialists who shred it and then separate the slivers. Magnets pick up the ferrous metals, electric current is used to identify other metals, plastics are sorted using infrared or sometimes density separation, and so on. You’d be surprised at how much gold can be mined from old electronics. Bulk metal, as well as separated shreds are sent off to metal recyclers. Glass is turned into something called cullet – crushed glass that’s been readied for remelting.
What we don’t want – landfill
If things are headed for the dump, the key is to ensure as much as possible is appropriate for normal landfill, not hazardous waste disposal. The core of this isn’t voluntary. There are dozens of laws and regulations we need to conform to, but the key ones are:
- WEEE – Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Regulations 2013
- REACH – Registration, Evaluation, Authorisation and Restriction of Chemicals
- RoHS – Restriction of Hazardous Substances
Those last two are EU directives but note that they continue to apply in the UK.
As a company, we do try to go beyond the legal minimum. We have chosen to be ISO 14001 compliant, for example. 14001 is all about pledging to adhere to stricter environmental management standards.
As an example of our voluntary commitments and their implication, Fastlane products are all low voltage, using just 337kW hours per year, on average. That helps customers meet their own goals in areas such as BREEAM and EPC. It also means no batteries are in any the units. Any such battery would be classified as hazardous waste, as well as being one of the biggest dangers during system maintenance. And of course, we do have a full-time, NEBOSH educated and IOSH member, HSEQ manager (me), to make sure we always hold to our mandatory and voluntary obligations.
So, how are we doing?
For many years, our terms and conditions have included a take-back scheme under which we pledged to accept anything we sell at end-of-life and take responsibility for environmentally sound disposal – meaning recycling or conversion to energy. In 2021, 76% of our total waste (that’s not just returned units) was recycled, and 24% converted into energy – that’s zero landfill.
I recall getting a startled look one time, when I described myself as the guy with his head in the bin. What I meant was my role has given me a genuine passion for the topic of our waste and what we do with it. There’s no spare planet if we make too much of a mess with this one!
If you would like to talk to us about this subject, or for further information on our product range, please get in touch with the team on +44 (0)208 890 5550 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Read more about IDL and the sustainability agenda in our previous blog: Why going green has never been more important