PALMDALE – As a leading global security company providing innovative systems to government and commercial customers worldwide, Northrop Grumman is now taking steps to reduce its own carbon footprint.
In a ceremony Tuesday, the Northrop Grumman facility in Palmdale distinguished itself as the first aerospace producer and manufacturer in the nation to be recognized as a Zero Waste facility.
A zero-waste status, ideally, requires constant innovative solutions – an “upstream” way of thinking about how a business can eliminate and reuse waste rather than burn it or stow it away in landfills, so the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council envisions.
Northrop Grumman’s Palmdale Aircraft Integration Center of Excellence, part of the Aerospace Systems sector, was celebrated for doing just that. The facility was presented Zero Waste certification from the council for successfully diverting more than 90 percent of its waste from landfill, incineration and the environment.
“This is all about efficiency,” Stephanie Barger, founder and executive director of the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council, explained. “You have to know your trash. When employees are handling all this excess packaging, you’re losing time. You’re paying for all that packaging to come in, and then you’re paying for it all to go to the landfill. So, it’s really about running an efficient business.”
Executives at Northrop Grumman agree that the efficiency of a business is demonstrated most visibly through its waste reduction. The company sees the Zero-Waste certification as actually supporting its 2020 environmental sustainability goals already in place. More specifically, the company overall is committed to achieving a solid waste diversion rate of 70 percent by year-end 2020, officials stated in a news release.
“The stuff we’re looking at now is upstream,” Andy Reynolds, vice president, global manufacturing and Palmdale site manager for Northrop Grumman, told media present at Tuesday’s event. “We’re always looking at how we can do some additional things – just seeing ahead of the process and making sure that there is another opportunity for us to eliminate some additional waste.”
Reynolds told reporters that the facility first realized the amount of waste it was generating when it began taking note of the many wood pallets, wood boxes and cardboard it was generating from its F-35 Lightning II program.
“Because of the volume of parts that come in, and the way we package everything, we obviously had an awful lot of waste,” Reynolds said. “So we went and created the containers that the parts come in – they’re reusable, and so it eliminated that waste.”
Additionally, the company used Benz Sanitation to sort through the waste and conduct recycling for the facility.
“And after tracking it, we began realizing that we were in the 90 percentile for diversion,” he said. “And that’s when we started concentrating on how we look at diverting waste and setting a standard at the site.”
Barger not only sees Northrop Grumman’s achievement as a “leap forward” in Zero Waste for business efficiency, but as community influencers capable of helping smaller businesses and organizations achieve higher Zero Waste standards.
“A large company like Northrop Grumman – that is nationally recognized – is not just taking a leading role in the environment, but in creating jobs for the community,” she said. “Every time we’re burying and burning [waste], we’re throwing away valuable jobs. And the more that we recycle and compost and repair, we create more jobs here locally.”
Barger further explained that Northrop Grumman now has the expertise to influence local waste haulers and recyclers.
“We have cheap landfill rates, so why bother recycling?” she said. “But [Northrop Grumman’s role] really raises the bar for all our haulers to do the right thing. The more you sort, of course, the more valuable the material is.”
Proving its commitment to environmental sustainability leadership, Northrop Grumman last year reduced its greenhouse gas intensity (metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per million dollars in sales) by 26.2 percent from 2008 levels, according to a release. And since the Palmdale site initiated the Zero Waste program in 2012, the estimated savings from waste reduction, reuse purposes and landfill avoidance is $4 million, officials said.
“We are the largest manufacturing site in the Antelope Valley, and so we felt that being a leader in that portion of [waste reduction] was important,” Reynolds said. “We’re trying to be good stewards in all aspects or recycling waste and land diversion.”