• A greener future than the past

    When I started work in manufacturing in 1970 I could never have imagined that almost 50 years later one of my passions would be environmental improvement.  At that time the expression “environmentally friendly” or “environmental improvement” were not in most people’s vocabulary, and certainly as a 17 year old apprentice, I would have had no idea what they meant!  The world has changed so much since then, even most children now have some environmental awareness, and for those of us working in manufacturing it’s our responsibility to push the boundaries for a future greener than the past.

    We Achieved ISO14001 – Environmental management in 2008 and this has been interwoven within our processes and systems ever since. All of SBFI Group’s timber waste off-cuts were legally disposed of to landfill, and this was satisfactory according to ISO14001. However SBFI Group wanted a more environmentally friendly way to work; we wanted to become a much greener company.

    In 2011 I managed to identify a local company who had recently invested in a biomass generator, creating green energy from waste.  This method was not only environmentally friendly but also had a significant cost saving.

    A small amount of waste which can’t be directly fed into the biomass generator is automatically mixed with biomass.  The output waste ashes is either used as a neutralizer in chemical production, or alternatively it can be used as base material in road construction.  Hard plastics are separated and passed to a specialist company, where some can be recycled or shredded to become Refuse Derived Fuel for export.

    Another improvement is regarding our sawdust waste.  The timber production facility is set up to meet all applicable Health & Safety regulations. Most importantly sawdust waste is extracted by vacuum on each woodworking machine to a central location. Previously this went to landfill, however we identified an improved waste stream; compost.  In the first 6 months of 2018 over 12 tonnes of sawdust has been converted into compost locally.

    Apart from our own waste, we have offered an ‘End of Life’ service for customers since 1996. All of our designs and new designs moving forward consider the ‘end of life’ process. Materials and processes are considered to ensure our desks can be optimised after their useful life, for maximum recycling.

    So far in 2018, SBFI Group has recycled 1,956 customers’ old desks at our Design & Operations Centre in Newhaven, Sussex.  Almost 97% of our desk can be stripped down into their base materials, by employees who probably built them over 20 years earlier.  The only parts that we pass on to a specialist recycling company being the electrical elements, which are processed under the WEEE Directive, by our authorised partners.

    As I move towards the end of my working life, I feel positive that manufacturing is very different to when I started in 1970.  Evidence that is topical today indicates there’s a long way to go, but SBFI Group are heading in the right direction.

    By Peter Groves – QA Manager at SBFI Group