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Meet the #EWWRAwards finalists: Opel's factory in Zarragoza on promoting waste as a resource

The EWWR Awards finalists have been announced! In each category, the Jury has selected their top 3 finalists. The winners will be revealed on 15 May in Brussels during the EWWR Awards Ceremony. In the days and weeks to come, we will introduce you the finalists one by one. Today, we would like you to present you the initiative undertaken by Opel’s Zarragoza factory in Aragon, Spain (which is owned by PSA Group) to raise awareness and support of the company’s waste reduction strategy among employees. This action is a finalist in the Business/Industry category.

A representative of the Environment Department at Opel's Zarragoza factory giving a guided tour of the facility's waste management to other employees
A representative of the Environment Department at Opel’s Zarragoza factory giving a guided tour of the facility’s waste management plant to factory employees

What did your action consist of?

Achieving excellence in environmental and energy management requires the involvement of the entire organisation. That is why the PSA Zaragoza manufacturing plant participates in and supports different initiatives to create environmental awareness among employees, contractors, suppliers and students.

We have been participating in the European Week of Waste Reduction (EWWR) since 2012. During the last edition of the event, we organized a series of environmental awareness activities that lasted for the entire week and that combined different waste prevention themes. Among them were:

Different communication channels were used to reach all our employees:

How did you come up with the idea?

PSA Zaragoza´s plant is making great efforts to engage our stakeholders, including our workers, to promote our sustainability agenda.

To ensure landfill-free status and reduce waste, we have developed a strategy that comprises of different stages and one of them is empowering the people working at our facility. Our employees are key to our success. If things are not done properly from the beginning, we will fail. For that reason, we decided to celebrate the EWWR by involving the workers, contractors, suppliers, interns and students at the plant.

Why is waste reduction important for you and your organisation?

For us, waste reduction means safeguarding our land and building a better future for the community in which we operate. It is one of the commitments we make in our Environment and Energy Policy to engage in “actions to preserve and restore the environment. This includes reducing waste and emissions, conserving resources, saving energy and recycling materials at every stage of the product life cycle.”

For this reason, we have defined reduction targets for waste. Employees training and awareness, plus a strong network of recycling partners and suppliers have helped the facility achieve its waste reduction and recycling goals.

Additionally, the PSA Zaragoza production centre has implemented outstanding initiatives that support a strongly circular economy in the field of waste management and industrial symbiosis. In 2014, our company achieved landfill-free status. That means that the waste generated in daily operations is recycled, reused or transformed into energy instead of being sent to landfill for disposal. This was a step further in the plant’s commitment to the environment and sustainability.

Can you give us more information about what it means in practice for a facility to have landfill-free status?

All the by-products that are generated from ongoing, day-to-day operations must be taken into account as part of a landfill-free designation. These include all the episodic and periodic by-products, such as pit cleanouts. To qualify for a landfill-free status, facilities must handle by-products through methods other than landfilling.

All material by-products from worldwide operations must be regarded as resources and therefore useful and marketable. Contractors and suppliers are part of this vision and work together with PSA Zaragoza facilities to first reduce the use of raw materials and then to reuse or recycle every by-product, so that waste can be eliminated. By achieving this vision, facilities reduce or eliminate their dependence on landfills. Opel customers know that we are doing what we can to reduce the impact of PSA Zaragoza facilities on the environment and our dependence on landfills. Additionally, in most instances, these activities can result in operational financial value as well.

To achieve this success, PSA Zaragoza changed its manufacturing process with new technologies and working methods. There were two key changes:

1. Reduction of solvent consumption from its paint shop; it now reuses 70 percent of it.
2. The facility also composts its wastewater treatment sludge to create fertilizer.

Employees training plus having a nearby partner able to efficiently transport and treat paint sludge to generate electricity were the key factors in our success in achieving landfill-free status.

Where can people reach you if they have questions?

Environmental Department: Medio.ambiente [AT] opel.com
Communication Department: comunicacion.interna [AT] opel.com

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