Airbus “wastes” nothing in pursuit of eco-efficiency

Airbus “wastes” nothing in pursuit of eco-efficiency

Waste is a facet of business for all large corporations. However, through carefully planned reduction models and high-quality management, significant strides can be made.

9 June 2011 Feature story

To reach Airbus’ eco-efficiency goals, company facilities around the world employ innovative waste management procedures as part of the blue5 initiative for enhanced environmental performance. 

In Toulouse, France, Airbus collects approximately three quarters of the company’s waste at its headquarters, and either recycles or sends it off for “material recovery” – while the rest is used for energy-generation purposes.

Waste that is potentially dangerous for people or the environment is then sent to the Airbus waste collection processing centre. This facility deals with 4,000 tonnes of liquid effluent (rinsing water, soluble oils, paint booth washing water) per year and transforms the waste into industrial effluent. This process makes it possible to separate the water from other materials and, at the end of its cycle, can be poured back into the rainwater network.

The easiest and least expensive waste to process is that which has not yet been produced. This has inspired a central transport and logistics team to work with procurement suppliers and lead logistics provider Kuehne+Nagel to examine the possibilities for reducing packaging waste – which consists primarily of wood, paper and cardboard, and represents 11 per cent of all waste produced by Airbus.

While reusable packaging could be an answer, it is not always the best option. Its validity depends on factors such as the distance to be covered, the cost of the empty packaging's return trip and the establishment of a specific transport loop.

The A340/A330 was the first Airbus aircraft programme to deploy reusable shuttle cases for the transport of interior furnishings, avoiding tens of thousands of tonnes of packaging waste. Now, the team responsible for this project is aiming to develop a single approach within Airbus for decision-making concerning packaging.

The “Follow you” printing system has this same objective: to reduce the amounts produced for absolutely no purpose. The goal is to save paper on the 320 million copies printed each year at Airbus. The new multi-function printers were implemented in France in 2010 and are currently being installed in the UK and Germany.

Additional sources of savings and ecological advances also have been identified in the industrial process. This includes particular attention to sealing products at all stages of aircraft assembly. Airbus’ UK facilities have set their sights on this endeavor and have introduced the “Sealant Reduction” project – which allows shopfloor operators to obtain the correct amount of product required for the operation being performed.

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