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3M anti-waste culture

Challenge

Implement a company-wide, bottom-up culture of waste and pollution prevention.

Problem

Applying waste prevention on a company-wide basis requires changes in culture and participation by all functions, including research and development, logistics and manufacturing employees.

Solution

One of the longest running zero waste initiatives is 3Ms Pollution Prevention Pays program (3P). Started in 1975, the core principle is that waste is a sign of inefficiency and that its elimination should save money. The company maintains that conventional control requires resource, energy and money, and simply constrains the problem temporarily rather than eliminates it. 3P seeks to eliminate pollution the source through:

  • product reformulation
  • process modification
  • equipment redesign
  • recycling and reuse of waste materials.
For decades, 3M has monitored all aspects of the waste stream and urged employees to develop innovative waste reduction programmes. Awards are given annually for innovative solutions developed through this approach, with over 7,000 projects now completed by 3M employees.

Benefits

3M has measured the benefits to the company over the last three decades:
  • Cumulative reduction of over 1.3 million tonnes of pollutants
  • Emissions of volatile organic compounds have dropped from over 70,000 tonnes a year in 1988 to less than 6,000 tonnes a year today
  • Saved at least US$1.2 billion by reusing the waste stream and avoiding expensive pollution mitigation measures
  • Driving innovative practice in the company

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