Earlier this year, Manufacturing Management reported on some of the work being carried out by UK manufacturers to help the environment, following the BBC’s Blue Planet II, which cast pollution into the headlines of all major media outlets.

The March article (https://bit.ly/2o48b1f) looked at how the Ford Motor Company has made its engine plant in Dagenham a safe haven for wildlife, British farm-to-fork business Cranswick plc has pledged to use 100% recycled packaging, and Coca-Cola European Partners has set out an ambitious packaging strategy.

A few months on and both waste and air pollution continue to be a major focal point, with one stomach-churning study finding that mussels – a popular seafood for many – are ingesting microplastics and ‘other debris’ along with their food (see section below).

So, what measures are businesses, in various sectors and across the globe, taking to stem the waste and air pollution problem, and are they ideas that, perhaps, other UK manufacturing firms could adapt in order to do their bit for the planet?

IKEA goes ‘planet-positive’

Swedish furniture giants, IKEA, announced a global commitment in June to remove all single-use plastic products in its range by 2020. The new sustainability commitment was one of many included in an updated People and Planet Positive strategy.

It says that the commitments, which will beachieved by 2030, aim to inspire and enable people to live more sustainably, reduce climate impact, contribute to a world without waste and create a more fair and equal society.

The strategy sets the direction for all IKEA franchisees and covers three areas: healthy & sustainable living; circular & climate positive; and fair and equal. Various commitments fall into each area.

“Our ambition is to become people and planet positive by 2030 while growing the IKEA business,” explains Torbjörn Lööf, chief executive of Inter IKEA Group. “Through our size and reach we have the opportunity to inspire and enable more than one billion people to live better lives, within the limits of the planet.

“Change will only be possible if we collaborate with others and nurture entrepreneurship. We are committed to taking the lead working together with everyone – from raw material suppliers all the way to our customers and partners.”

Other commitments made by the company include designing all products with new ‘circular’ principles, with the goal to only use renewable and recycled materials; becoming climate positive and reducing the total IKEA climate footprint by an average of 70% per product by working with home furnishing suppliers across factory operations and not just the manufacturing for IKEA; and achieving zero emission home deliveries by 2025.

“Becoming truly circular means meeting people’s changing lifestyles, prolonging the life of products and materials and using resources in a smarter way,” adds sustainability manager Lena Pripp-Kovac. “To make this a reality, we will design all products from the very beginning to be repurposed, repaired, reused, resold and recycled.”

Nissan turns beach volunteer

On 8 June, people across the globe got behind ‘World Oceans Day’ by sharing pictures and stories online, and by taking part in various ocean-related activities. As part of the ‘global day of ocean celebration’, car manufacturer Nissan got involved by handing over its ‘toughest pickup’ to a Cornish father and daughter team, who wanted to clear rubbish from remote beaches for their local ‘Beach Guardian’ project.

The project is the brainchild of 21-year-old marine biology student Emily Stevenson and her father, Rob. The pair have been clearing waste from beaches in Cornwall for 10 years and amassed an army of local volunteers to help, but were struggling to reach remote locations and remove bulky rubbish, so they posted a request for help on social media.

Ken Ramirez, senior vice president of sales and marketing at Nissan Europe, says that “community heroes” like Emily and Rob, who give their own time to try to make a difference, are an “inspiration”.

Nissan responded to their plea by supplying the pair with a new Navara model. The vehicle, which can be fitted with a snorkel and is designed for extreme landscapes, helped the project take on their most challenging beach plastic clean-up to date.

The car maker is now inviting other community groups to nominate remote locations where the pick-up could help clear plastic waste (see box on p28 for more).

A solar transport solution

Global logistics company DHL is a well-known brand and its bright yellow lorries can be seen pounding the motorways up and down the UK. In a bid to drive down carbon emissions, reduce the number of vehicles on roads and deliver cost savings for customers, the company recently launched two new UK transport innovations.

One of these innovations is a ‘solar transport solution’ – part of DHL’s declared target of zero emissions by 2050 – that aims to reduce emissions and fuel spend to make the fleet greener and more ‘urban-friendly’.

Working in partnership with Don Bur, DHL is introducing TRAiLAR, thin film solar mats fitted to vehicle roofs and connected to the vehicle’s battery or additional on-board batteries. The solar energy generated is used to power different on-board activities, such as tail lifts.

The firm says that TRAiLAR, which is being actively integrated across DHL’s own and customer UK fleets before being extended to roll-out to third parties from 2019, can be integrated into both trailers and rigid vehicles, resulting in reduced CO₂ emissions, as well as lower fuel costs and maintenance spend.

“Ultimately, we need fewer, cleaner and quieter vehicles on UK roads,” explains Phil Roe, managing director of Network Logistics and Transport at DHL Supply Chain UK and Ireland. “This can be achieved while also helping customers reduce their transport costs. That’s why we’re committed to developing new sustainable transport solutions that can be rolled out across all supply chains for the benefit of the environment, the public and our customers.”

LNG vessels set to be shipshape

Another company looking to reduce carbon emissions is the Volkswagen Group. The company’s logistics arm, Volkswagen Group Logistics, operator Siem Car Carriers and shipyard Xiamen Shipbuilding celebrated the steel cutting – equivalent to foundation laying in the shipbuilding industry – of two liquefied natural gas (LNG)-powered shipping vessels with an official ceremony in the Chinese city of Xiamen at the end of March.

From 2019, the two ships will carry Volkswagen Group vehicles from Europe to North America. Compared with conventional vessels, it is believed that the LNG ships will reduce CO₂ emissions by up to 25%, NOX by up to 30%, particulates by up to 60% and sulphur oxides by as much as 100%.

Markus Lange, head of Vehicle Logistics at Volkswagen Group Logistics, says: “Greater sustainability in logistics is a key issue for us.

“The use of two LNG ships for transporting vehicles is a major step forward which we can only take together with our strong partners.”

Reverse vending

Moving back to the plastic waste problem and retailer, the Co-op, has launched a deposit and return scheme (DRS) trial with reverse vending machines, as part of its commitment to increase recycling and reduce marine pollution.

The machines have been provided by Recycling Options and Envipco Holdings and the trial has seen the DRS unveiled at pop-up Co-op stores at two major music festivals – Download (8-10 June) and Latitude (12-15 July) – with two more appearances scheduled at Reading and Leeds festivals (24-26 August).

Reverse vending works by where plastic bottles sold at the Co-op pop-up stores have a mandatory deposit added to the price, with revellers able to return them to the reverse vending machine in exchange for a voucher to spend in the on-site stores.

To close the loop in this trial, the bottles collected then go on to be recycled and are created into bottles for Co-op’s own-brand water.

“Reducing the amount of plastic that makes its way to landfill is really important to us and our members,” says Co-op retail chief Jo Whitfield. “I’m excited that, in partnership with Live Nation and Recycling Options, we have the opportunity to bring these machines to the UK only a few months after they were officially given the green light.

“We’re committed to giving our customers ways to make more ethical choices, so this is a hugely exciting milestone in our sustainability journey to achieve our future aim of making all our food packaging 100% recyclable.”

Get inspired

Regardless of what type of business you are, where you are based or how big you are, every company has a duty to do their bit for the planet and look after the environment.

Ideas and measures are being taken by various firms in the manufacturing sector and beyond, and all it takes is a bit of thought and generosity to have an impact.

If you haven’t already then perhaps plan how your business can reduce its environmental impact by coming up with a sustainability plan. If you already have this in place then make sure every member of staff on and off site is working towards these goals. And, if you can stretch an arm out and have an even wider impact on your community and local area then please, do it.

We only have one planet and everyone needs to do something before the damage becomes irreversible, so looking to other companies, and indeed, other sectors for environmental inspiration should be on the minds of us all.

Microplastics entering the human food chain

Scientists from the University of Hull and the Brunel University London have found microplastics and other debris in 100% of mussels sampled from around the UK coast, and those bought in supermarkets.

They collected samples from eight locations around the UK’s coastline between November 2016 and February 2017, as well as from eight unnamed supermarkets, representing eight different, unnamed brands.

The research (https://bit.ly/2sNiNnA) found that 100% of samples taken from UK waters and supermarket-bought products contained microplastics or other debris and for every 100g of mussels consumed, it is estimated there are approximately 70 pieces of microplastics.

The findings, which have been published in the Journal of Environmental Pollution, also show that more particles were found in supermarket mussels, which had been cooked or frozen, than in the freshly caught mussels.

Mussels feed by filtering seawater through their bodies, ingesting particles such as microplastics and debris, as well as their food. Of the debris found in mussels, the study showed around 50% was made up of microplastics and 37% from ‘other debris’ including textiles such as rayon and cotton.

Dr Alan Reynolds, deputy director of the Experimental Techniques Centre at Brunel University London, says: “Blue Planet has rightly awoken the public to the devastating effects waste plastics are having on the marine environment. This paper highlights that the problems are close to home in finding that these same microplastics are now coming back to us in the food in our supermarkets.”

Professor Jeanette Rotchell, of the School of Environmental Sciences at the University of Hull, adds: “It is becoming increasingly evident that global contamination of the marine environment by microplastic is impacting wildlife and its entry into the food chain is providing a pathway for the waste that we dispose of to be returned to us through our diet. Chances are that these have no implications, but there is not enough data out there to say there is no risk. We still need to do the studies.”

Nissan’s voluntary drive

Car manufacturer Nissan has invited community groups across Europe to nominate remote and tough-to-reach beaches or other locations where the Navara pick-up could help clear plastic waste.

Members of the public or community groups in the UK, who want to highlight an area of beach that needs clearing of plastic waste, are being encouraged to use the free ‘What3Words’ photo application to send an image of the beach plastic they’ve found, along with its precise location to Nissan GB at: beachclean@nissan.co.uk

The application is a global addressing platform that allocates every 3m x 3m location with a simple three word address, for example: ocean.plastic.waste.

This address corresponds to a GPS location and allows a specific spot on a beach to be identified and easily shared – even along the most rugged and remote coastlines.

Nissan is also encouraging its European employees to use its own volunteering program, Days for Change, to join local beach cleaning projects.