Reducing and Eliminating Non-Product Output (NPO)
There are two main strategies to staunch the flow of NPO: stop making it
hrough efficiency and design innovation; or turn your non-product into product,
by finding customers for whom your “waste” is their “food.” Who can turn your
non-product output into their valued input? How?
1. Look for It! “If you can’t see the waste, you can’t get rid of it,” says Tony
Manos, a lean enterprise consultant. He suggests taking teams on “Waste Walks”
to look for material wastes and process waste. “Never settle for the ‘we have to do
it this way’ answer,” he says. “There is always room for improvement.”
2. Reduce Waste Through Process
Efficiency. Whether through pollution
prevention, waste minimization, business
process re-engineering, design for environment (incorporating environmental
considerations into products and services before they enter the production
phase), or any of a dozen other ap-proaches, most businesses can discover
significant opportunities to improve production efficiencies.
This can be done through redesign
and re-specification of products,
processes and equipment. For example,
with the assistance of Stop Waste.org,
Ghirardelli Chocolate found that it
could reduce waste and save money—
$2.6 million over the last five years—just
by replacing the cardboard boxes used
to transfer product internally with
reusable plastic totes.
3. Use Waste as Feedstock. Cascades
hat flow the “waste” of one process into
the inputs of another can increase net
yields. Internal cascades include cycling
scraps back into the product stream, or
cogeneration systems cascading waste
heat from electrical generation to heat
water. External cascades may start as simple recycling efforts and mature into regional waste exchanges, industrial clusters
with symbiotic material and energy needs, and even eco-industrial parks.
4. Design Your Non-product! Make it something more “digestible” by hungry
ndustrial mouths down the food chain, and—lo and behold—it’s become a product. If no one wants it enough to pay for it or take it off your hands, at least design
your non-product to be edible, without harm, by Earth’s living systems.
5. Use Less “Stuff.” It might go against the economistic tradition of “more stuff
means more money,” but the value equation of the future will be “produce more
value with less physical throughput.” Redesign products to get more done with less
stuff, or in other words, dematerialization. For example, Interface Global shifted
from selling carpet tiles to leasing floor coverings, which will then be turned in at
the end of use to be recycled back into product, enabling the company to satisfy
customers, reduce waste and make more money—with one-sixth the energy and re-
sources required in the first place.
6. Pay Attention: Measure What
Matters. Use business performance
metrics to aim toward the right goal;
track resource efficiency (resource use
or waste generation per unit of product) and throughput efficiency.
Turn Waste Into Food
Pacific Foods recycles all tea waste and
6 million pounds of soy byproduct per
year into high protein feed for cattle.
The company also rigorously tracks and
quantifies all components of its solid
waste stream. Over 95 tons of materials
are recycled each month including cardboard, paper, rigid plastic, plastic film,
wood, metal, lighting, batteries and electric equipment. By identifying “leaks” in
recycling infrastructure the company
was able to systematically remove materials from solid waste and diverted an
additional 30 tons of material in the first
quarter of 2009.
EcoAudits Can Guide Your
An EcoAudit is a systematic assessment of your organization’s operations—an integrated analysis of
resource use that identifies opportunities to improve performance, reduce
impact and save money.
After an EcoAudit, fair trade pioneers Equal Exchange found out that
their largest contributors to carbon
emissions were roasting, shipping and
electricity. Recommendations ranged
from more complex and expensive
changes, such as improving roaster efficiency and installing heat exchangers
(a good option for many food processors), to simple, inexpensive changes
like reducing lighting in infrequently
used warehouse space and maintaining door seals on refrigerators.
White Wave is another great example. Through an EcoAudit of its facility, White Wave discovered that 10
percent of its facility footprint could
be eliminated through use of variable-frequency drives, expanded heat re-covery/cogeneration, and other
You can conduct an EcoAudit with
nternal staff, or hire an outside firm
to do it for you. Here are the steps, in
1. Collect Baseline Data. Gather
basic information about the facilities—
the departments or functions performed, the square footage, number
of employees and duty cycles for the
building (time/day of use). Collect a
year or two of energy, water and wastewater, solid waste and recycling bills, to
provide a baseline for comparison.
Identify or estimate the activities and