Environmental Logistics: Turning Waste into Something Valuable
When consumer products like phones, computers, and toner cartridges are no longer needed they often find their way into landfills. What most people don’t realize is that some of these products once thrown out can become classified as a hazardous material. Once these products are dumped on the ground, they can deteriorate and harm people’s health and the environment. Recycling waste products is not only good for the environment and our health, but also increasingly makes financial sense as more value can still be extracted out of the components of these once useful consumer products.
Various logistics providers globally have started to pay closer attention to the recycling process known as environmental logistics. The duty of the logistics provider in this field is to handle and transport waste products to places all over the world, where the value left in the waste product will be extracted.
In this issue of LM, we sat down with Mr. Stefan van der Sluys, President and CEO of Best Global Logistics Co. Ltd.; Mr. Sebastian Haebler, Director Logistics & Supply Chain Management; Mr. Peer Thurau, Regional Head of Chemical Competence & EHSQ Management; and Mr. Salarnyou Haputcha, Dangerous Goods and Safety Manager from Leschaco (Thailand) Ltd, to discuss and talk about their experiences in the environmental logistics field.
Turning waste into something valuable
Mr. van der Sluys explained that, “the key to environmental logistics is to recycle waste and make it valuable once again. From there it can be turned into new materials, sold, or turned into something new entirely. We ship waste not to have it dumped somewhere, but for our customers to recycle and reuse it into new things which have value again.”
“Environmental Logistics is all about the recycling of waste material for environmental purposes.” Mr. Haebler said. “Environmental logistics services are all about waste management, recycling, and additional value creation. The companies that we work with are mostly involved in recycling, waste trading, waste management, biomass, and power.”
Waste products like batteries, electronics, medical waste or tires were once dumped and in an inappropriate way. These waste products are harmful to the environment and can be dangerous to people who interact with them. Logistics providers therefore need to be trained to understand the importance of how to handle & transport this waste correctly.
Environmental logistics is an international business – not necessary only a domestic. We are involved with both inbound and outbound shipments of different types of waste categories.
“Each country has different sources of waste and often want different kinds of material from other countries, so this really is an international operation. For example, in Thailand, used cooking oil is shipped to Europe to be used in combination with other materials in power plants to extract every drop of energy out of it,” explained Mr. van der Sluys.
The method of transporting and shipping waste is quite complicated as all waste needs to be registered before shipping. Mr. Thurau says, “All of the waste we ship needs to be registered into an international waste catalog. Each type of waste is then identified by a waste ID number, and if it doesn’t have this number its not permitted to ship.”
However, some of the methods are specific and out of the responsibility of logistics provider. It’s a two-way street; to make this work both parties must take a part of the responsibility that comes with shipping this type of material. Mr. Salarnyou said that, “as a logistics provider, we can provide support for waste transportation, but are not responsible for the internal waste handling. We find a proper waste disposer, contact the customer, and then the government to submit the documents to get permission.”
In order to ship the waste, there are special requirements for the international transportation of it. Mr. Thurau explained that, “waste is separated into two types: green-listed waste and amber/yellow-listed waste. For green-listed waste, we generally don’t have to make any special arrangements. We just need a special document when the vessel arrives. The handling is quite similar to regular commodities. On the other hand, if we ship amber/yellow-listed waste, the notification process needs to have started from the waste-generating company first. The company needs to submit the notification process to the environmental authority of the country of origin, and then the authority gets in touch with the destination country. Transport licenses for waste transport and insurance confirmation is required of all carriers.”
The specialized waste logistics provider needs to have a certain knowledge set about how to handle different kinds of waste products, as well as knowing the international & domestic laws and regulations. Mr. van der Sluys said that, “we have to prepare all transportation documents and obtain the necessary permits to transport some specific types of waste, even if domestically. This kind of business is quite challenging to say the least, in the past several years we have spent a lot of time in learning & training to make our business successful.”
It doesn’t happen overnight
Mr. van der Sluys explained that, “companies need the right kind of knowledge and professionalism in this field. They need to know what type of packaging or transport method they have to use and how to handle different kinds of waste and keep this very competitive. Some industrial waste is highly toxic and requires special care and treatment. For some transports, we also team up with other local parties that can meet the standards required and support with their specific resources.”
Mr. Haebler said that, “in this kind of business, we need to have specialized equipment, facilities and technologies.” Mr. Thurau added that, “also, with chemical waste products the waste generating company needs to provide a Material Safety Data Sheet of their products, which describes all specific health and safety precautions. In addition, incompatible waste mixes need to be avoided to prevent fire or explosion. The company should properly segregate the materials.”
The employees handling waste need to be trained and practiced in all safety issues as well. When dealing with hazardous waste, the staff needs to know the right equipment and type of uniform to wear for protection and the correct safety procedures. There are certain products that can burn with a simple touch or some chemicals if inhaled can be harmful to the lungs. Staff need to be ready and able to respond to an unexpected situation. Mr. van der Sluys said,
The process requires extensive reporting and record-keeping to meet compliance standard. If despite meticulous preparation’s something goes not as exactly planned, the company need to be quickly and effectively work it out
Apart from having actual experience and knowledge in the industry, logistics companies need to be able to trust their clients, as they need to be well acknowledged of the products their clients are asking them to transport. If they are uncertain of the contents of their shipments, they could be ending up providing an illegal service and be fined. Mr. van der Sluys demonstrated that, “trust is of huge importance. Our clients trust our service and company, but we also need to be able to trust them as well. We need study carefully and be certain of what types of products they want us to move, as certain types of waste can be against some laws and regulations in some countries. If one transport hazardous waste without a valid permit that would be a crime, so if a logistics provider is transporting a container of hazardous waste without knowing what is inside; they could technically be breaking the law.”
The future in Thailand
For the trend of environmental logistics in the future, Mr. Haebler believes that, “naturally, there will be an increasing need of this kind of logistics services. However, the field is heavily regulated both nationally and internationally so any development or progress may be very slow.”
In many European countries e.g. the Netherlands, the government publishes information about how to correctly dispose of waste like electronics, which is essential as people need to understand this important information. Mr. van der Sluys believes that this same concept could be applied in Thailand as well.
It’s important to inform people about how to properly dispose of hazardous waste, like why we shouldn’t throw the batteries or some chemicals away in our household trash. Some kind of waste can be dangerous if not disposed of in the right way
Metallurgic Waste components such as mercury can be extremely dangerous if left in a landfill, as the heavy metal toxins can seep into the ground. Even worse, once in the ground it can eventually find its way into the water supply underground. Providing the right disposal methods and informing people about the effect of the hazardous waste could help them to realize the importance of how to get rid of the waste.
“Many companies, especially Japanese companies, have started to show interest into this kind of business. Besides the training, a license and permission is also needed as it’s related to cross-border and international trade. I see it as indeed good opportunities in Thailand and one would expect also this country have the aim to step up in quality waste management. In the future, the specialized transport service, if done well, can be a profitable business venture, while at the same time can also help us offset some of our carbon footprint and help save the environment as well,” said Mr. van der Sluys.
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