Zero waste to landfill

Elkem tour iceland 1

A clear goal has been set for Elkem Foundry Products’ plant in Iceland: nothing from the production process should end up in landfill sites. With- out any increased cost, impressive progress has been made.

In 2010 34 per cent of all side streams from the plant’s production ended up in landfill sites. In 2011 the management and employees set a clear goal for them- selves: zero waste to landfill.

No time limit was set because no one knew how this ambitious goal should be achieved in detail. Instead, goals were set for a year at a time, based on ideas and knowledge they accumulated. This method has produced results: from 35.4 percent ending up in landfill sites in 2010, the plant was down to 11.3 percent in 2014. In 2015, the goal is to get below 10 percent.

Good finances

Achieving the goal of 100 per cent recovery of the side streams has necessitated changing the culture at the plant. The word “waste” is no longer used: All side streams are resources with potential value and should be described appropriately.

One prerequisite for implementing measures is that they should not increase costs; rather they should improve the financial situation. This double sustain- ability principle means that the risk of setbacks is reduced, because the recycling of side streams also has positive financial results.

There are many physical side streams in a large ferrosilicon plant: ore, ‘fines’, timber, plastic, iron, paper, cardboard, food waste and so on. The idea is to reduce the waste and thereafter sort it. What can be used in the plant’s own production is put back into the process. What Elkem cannot use is sent to other forms of recovery. Ultimately, one is left with fractions where no way of reusing or recovering has yet been found, that presently end up in landfill sites.

Working together

The vast majority ends up in a landfill site owned by the industry itself. The plant also has a 10 percent stake in the recovery company Endurvinnslan. Elkem Iceland is working together with industrial companies throughout Iceland to find solutions that can increase reuse and lower landfill rates by offering to take over fractions that Elkem can use in its own production. This could, for example, be using recycled construction materials as a source of carbon during the smelting process. This produces lower net CO2 emissions because the construction materials are biological and regarded as climate neutral.

Percentage of waste sent to landfill