Plastic soup – what can you do?

Environmental Management Systems

Plastic soup – what can you do?

Recent research has indicated that 85% of all human-made materials found on our beaches are microplastic fibres. These are tiny fibres released from fabrics when they are washed. A domestic washing machine load of poly-cotton will release 137,000 fibres every wash. This figure increases to almost half a million for polyester and almost 3/4 million for acrylic.

Small animals such as shrimp, crab, fish and birds have been found with microplastic fibres in their stomachs, and we know that it’s getting into our food chain.

What can your business do to address this issue? Actions could include changing the fabric you use and/or using filters to capture some of the fibres before they reach our waterways.

Contact Julia on 07904 389889 to explore the options together.

Should you switch to hybrids?

Petrol/electric hybrid cars have been around for a while, providing a fuel-efficency gain over standard petrol cars. I have noticed recently that similar hybrid technology has now been developed for other vehicles, plant and equipment.

I’ve seen hybrid generators available to hire and buy. Using these instead of standard generators will reduce the amount of diesel you need to have delivered to site, therefore reducing risk of spill, as well as the obvious improvements in energy efficiency, carbon footprint and other air pollution.

Hybrid technology is even being used on vehicles as large as car ferries.

What equipment will your company be buying or hiring in the next few months? You might benefit from some easy environmental, operational and financial wins by looking for and assessing hybrid options.

Plan do CHECK act

Housing development in Malmo
We recently visited an eco-development in Malmo, Sweden, about 10 years after it was built. Some really good features were evident, but so too were some issues that have arisen during this period. This highlighted to me the importance of the ‘check’ part of the ‘plan do check act’ cycle, so that things can either be improved or at least learned from.

Have you reviewed any of your environmental initiatives over the last few years for long-term success? What did you learn? Please share your thoughts with us.

Normalization of data

When you monitor your organization’s performance, have you ever considered which variables, other than good environmental management, might be relevant to consider? 

Data normalization, ie comparing connected variables, is a very useful tool to use. It is a means of comparing efficiency of processes, eg by reporting on kWh of energy used per item produced.

However, we often see data normalization that confuses the picture, rather than clarifying it. For example, gas that’s only being used for heating a building being normalized against production throughput.

A simple way to determine the relevance of a variable is to create a scatter diagram using existing data:

If the points on the scatter diagram are in a tidy line, as above, there is a clear correlation between the two factors. The more scattered they are, and the flatter the line, the less strong the correlation – and the less valuable it is to report the data normalized against that factor.

A more complex way to determine relevance – and predict future consumption – is to consider a range of factors by conducting a full regression analysis.

Different variables are likely to be relevant in different situations. For example, electricity consumption per m2 is more likely to be relevant when it’s mainly used for lighting than when it’s used for production.

Normalization of data is not the be-all and end-all of monitoring. After all, we know that we need to make absolute reductions in some areas too, eg carbon emissions. A combination of absolute and normalized data is useful, so that you can assess the overall position as well as your efficiency.

We can help you to generate meaningful data – call Julia on 07904 389889 to discuss your requirements.

Leadership, context and the integration of business processes

One of the leadership requirements of ISO 14001:2015, the international standard for environmental management systems, is to integrate the environmental management system into the organization’s business processes. This is a new requirement that is often overlooked.

When auditing, I often see environmental management teams documenting the issues and interested parties that they have identified, with associated risks and opportunities. On the surface of things, this may seem to meet the requirements of clause 4 of ISO 14001:2015, but this is a clause that really needs board level involvement.

Many management boards already have a risk assessment process. If this is separate to the environmental management team’s process and does not consider environmental issues, then the environmental management system is clearly not integrated into other business processes. This is important because, when integrated, it brings environmental management firmly onto the organization’s agenda at a strategic level.

Involving senior management in the ‘context’ requirements of ISO 14001:2015 provides organizations with real benefits in terms of understanding organizational risks and opportunities, as well as meeting the requirements of ISO 14001. We can help you to make this a truly valuable process. Call Julia today on 07944 389889 to book a review with us.