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Becoming a Zero Waste to Landfill Facility
 Sponsored by:  Ricoh Electronics, Inc.

The Business Forum recently organized a
Forum luncheon for REI Ricoh Electronics,
Inc. at the Westin South Coast Plaza Hotel,
in Costa Mesa, California.


Those accepting our invitation included:

Senior Engineer/Scientist - Alpha Star Corporation * Industrial Engineer - Anaheim Manufacturing Inc. EHS Manager/Environmental & Safety Engineer - Argo-Tech Corporation * Design Engineer - Argo-
Tech Corporation *
Project Manager - Automobile Club of Southern California * Senior Environmental Engineer - Behr Process Corporation * President - BG International Inc. * Facilities Manager Composites Horizons Inc. * Business Development Manager - Goodwill Industries of Orange County Plant Manager - Juanita�s Foods Inc. * Maintenance Supervisor - Juanita's Foods Inc. * Principal Management Enterprises International * Senior Process Engineer � Printronix Corporation * Senior Principal Systems Engineer - Raytheon Company * Project Manager - Turner Construction Company

For the benefit of those of our members and supporters who could not
attend the meeting we present the following contact and white paper.

Ricoh was awarded the 19th annual World Environmental Center Gold Medal for International achievement in Sustainable Development.

Becoming a Zero Waste to Landfill Facility

Contributed by Ricoh Electronics, Inc.


Disposing of waste into landfills is detrimental to the natural environment; water bodies, land and the air. Conservation of natural resources is important for all future generations. It is estimated that over 390 million tons of waste was disposed into United States landfills in 1999 [1]. Today in year 2003, the situation is likely to be much worse. In light of our Company�s (Ricoh Company Ltd.) genuine concern to reduce this burden on the natural environment, we have embarked on the mission to discontinue disposing waste into landfills. Establishing such a system in the United States would be very difficult. The United States is a vast land with many landfills. Its culture is one of landfill disposal and not recycling.

Despite this fact, Ricoh Electronics, Inc. accomplished a culture change among its employees to achieve zero waste to landfill. As of March 2001, all eleven of Ricoh�s North American manufacturing factories successfully established Zero Waste to Landfill Systems.

Ricoh�s Environmental Commitment

Environmental consciousness is an important element of business at Ricoh. In Japan, Ricoh is well known for its excellence in environmental conservation. The company�s leaders and top management are very committed to Ricoh�s environmental involvement. In February 1992, Ricoh Group established its �General Principles on the Environment.� This included an important �Environmental Policy� for all of Ricoh and its subsidiaries.

This policy states ��we recognize environmental conservation as one of most important missions given to mankind, and we regard environmental conservation as an integral element in all our business activities.� 

It is Ricoh�s goal to preserve planet earth in good condition for future generations. This Principle and philosophy would be the foundation for all future environmental activities within Ricoh. Among these milestones, it would include ISO 14001 certification and Zero Waste to Landfill. 

Zero Waste to Landfill Project

In Ricoh�s commitment to the environment, we have become a global leader in environmentally friendly manufacturing. Our Japanese manufacturing facilities have paved the way for other manufacturers. They have excelled in areas such as energy conservation, noise reduction, waste reduction and zero waste to landfill.

In July 1999, Ricoh Electronics, Inc. (REI) established a goal to achieve zero waste to landfill for all its facilities.  REI is a subsidiary of the Ricoh Group with eleven facilities located in North America, including the United States and Mexico. These facilities manufacture a wide range of products, which include:

  • Office Machines, Printed Circuit Boards and related Parts  

  • Toner Cartridges  

  • Toner and Developer  

  • Thermal sensitive paper  

  • Thermal transfer ribbon (TTR)

The Ricoh Group defines a Zero Waste to Landfill facility as one that does not send any waste from their operations to a landfill. They classify zero waste to landfill into three (3) levels. 

Level 1: (industrial waste). 

Level 2: (industrial waste + general waste including waste generated by restaurants). 

Level 3: (industrial waste + general waste + household solid waste, sludge, such as raw sewage, from private sewage systems). A target was established to achieve level 2 zero waste for all REI facilities before March 2001, only 22 months. The fact that each manufacturing facility is unique would make achieving zero waste to landfill a very challenging goal. To properly pursue and ultimately achieve zero waste to landfill would require a lot of effort and organization.

Another key factor in achieving zero waste to landfill would be overcoming the disposable culture that exists in the United States. In 1999, the United States disposed of over 390 million tons of waste [1]. This waste was distributed among landfills throughout the United States, totaling greater than 55,000. According to the EPA, as many as 75% of these landfills are polluting our groundwater [2]. Although recycling is a common practice in the United States, participation is not as successful as other industrialized countries throughout the world. This lack of participation could possibly be attributed to geography. The United States� population (over 280 million) is spread over 9.6 million square kilometers [3]. This equates to over 0.035 km2/person. Compare this figure to a country like Japan where over 126 million people live within 377 thousand square kilometers or under 0.003 km2 / person [4]. The result is that each Japanese resident has 10 times less space than United States residents do. This equates to less space for landfills and fewer natural resources. Thus, environmental consciousness becomes a necessity. REI�s environmental policy is summarized as follows: 


P - Prevent Pollution; N - Saves Natural Resources; L � Comply with the Law. Our main motive for becoming a Zero Waste to Landfill Facility is our concern & commitment to preserve the earth for future generation. We promote this philosophy and commitment under the slogan �Keep Our Earth Clean�.

There would be two key objectives for REI to successfully achieve zero waste to landfill:

  • First, it would be necessary to establish a system to promote employee environmental consciousness. Induce a culture change from waste disposal to waste material reduction and recycle. If successful, this culture change would become a part of their daily jobs and ultimately at home.  

  • Second, it would be necessary to reduce the amount of waste being generated. This would include manufacturing by-products and materials shipped into the facilities.

Project Teams/Organization

After establishing the company-wide goal, the next step at REI would be to create a strategy. This strategy identified an REI general approach and empowered each facility to design and implement their own unique zero waste to landfill system to achieve the goal on time.

Each facility nominated a leader that reported to the Corporate Environmental, Health and Safety Division Manager, who routinely reported the status of activities and results to the President of REI.

The leaders established teams made up of employees from all functions and levels of their organizations.

Waste Profiling

After establishment of the organizations, it was critical to identify all existing waste streams and their quantities. Each facility was requested to establish a system to identify and profile all waste types generated from their operations. The facilities utilized various tools such as process flow diagrams, waste type display walls, and disposal records analysis.

The Zero Waste to Landfill Methods

To help the facilities accomplish Zero Waste to Landfill, an organized strategy would be needed. The strategy which was implemented contained two main components: Ricoh�s �5Rs� Concept and �Green Purchasing.�

These two methods were based on a foundation created by another concept: 

Total Productive Maintenance (TPM).

TPM philosophy in regards to manufacturing is optimum efficiency with minimal waste.

The �5Rs�

The 5R method was originally applied at the Ricoh Japan facilities. The method was very effective in Japan and was benchmarked at the North American REI facilities.

  • Refuse � Avoid buying anything that becomes waste. Both Ricoh and its suppliers encourage minimum use of resources. These efforts are based on the awareness that what is being sold is the product and function and not the container and packaging. For example, an REI facility worked closely with its suppliers to standardize the type of stretch film for all incoming shipments. This resulted in improved segregation and recycling of packaging materials.

  • Return � Return materials to suppliers. REI also worked with its suppliers to deliver raw materials into shipping containers that can be returned. This practice is beneficial for both parties. REI does not have to dispose of single-use containers and the supplier saves in packaging costs.

  • Reduce � Reduce waste at the source. Through better manufacturing practices, REI aims to reduce by-products generated by their processes. For example, thermal paper is the largest waste stream at REI Georgia. Large paper rolls are fed and processed at a high rate. If the paper breaks during this process, a large amount of waste is generated, nearly 500 lbs. per break. Through manufacturing improvements, monthly web breaks were reduced from 73 to less than 5. The result was less waste, minimal downtime and improved employee morale.

  • Re-use � Re-use anything possible. Before anything is considered waste, the question should be asked, "Can this be reused?" Various office supplies, such as spare notebooks and pens, are collected for reuse.

  • Recycle � Apply various recycle technologies to any remaining waste streams. These technologies usually require the external processing of waste streams to manufacture recycled products or generate electricity. For example, toner waste is a very difficult waste stream to recycle. Some very unique solutions have been discovered: asphalt blending and fuel supplement for cement manufacturing. Each of these technologies was developed as a collaboration between REI and the recycling vendor.

Applying the 5R Method enabled each REI facility to divert all identified waste streams from landfill disposal. 

Green Purchasing

One key aspect of Zero Waste to Landfill was to address all materials coming into the facilities. The Purchasing Departments were responsible for working with all suppliers in support of the Project. It was important to work with these suppliers to regulate the types of materials brought into the facilities. These efforts helped to eliminate some waste streams and also made others easier to divert from landfill. 

Examples of Green Purchasing:

  • All Purchasing Departments worked with various suppliers to begin delivery of raw materials in reusable containers.

  • A Purchasing Department initiated the installation of a plastic resin silo. The 3,000-gallon silo would allow large shipments of resin to be delivered via tanker truck. This bulk storage method eliminated packaging materials such as gaylords, pallets and stretch wrap.

  • A Purchasing Department worked with a supplier to provide reusable, washable cloth rags for Maintenance and Production. This program eliminated the need for disposable rags.

  • All Purchasing Departments worked with suppliers to return used shipping pallets.

Changing the Culture at REI

The success of the Zero Waste to Landfill Project would depend on one key factor: establishing a culture change among the employees. As discussed earlier, this culture change entails the ability to raise each employee�s environmental consciousness. No matter how effective the recycle technology, the Project would ultimately fail without the employees understanding the program and their commitment to support it.

This was the challenge faced by all of the facilities. They were also faced with some very difficult questions:

  • �How can we achieve this culture change within REI in such a short period of time?�

  • �Can we achieve the culture change without monetary incentive?� We chose not to provide and monetary incentive because we felt that the results would be short-lived. 

  • �Can we change the culture enough that employees will apply these environmental activities from work and into their homes?�

The strategy implemented at all Ricoh Electronics Inc. facilities was to change the way the employees feel. We wanted the employees to care about the environment. Also, understand the harmful effects of solid, liquid and hazardous wastes.

The Promotion Teams designed many activities to increase employee participation and awareness. As these activities became common, many ideas used to establish the new culture came from the employees themselves. Some of these activities included:

� At one facility, a large wall was painted with an environmental mural. The mural was painted by employees to promote the 5Rs

� A monthly newsletter called �Zero in on Zero Waste� was published and distributed to share activities and progress toward Zero Waste to Landfill.

  • Weekly computer log-on announcements were created to provide network users important communication pertaining to the Project.

  • Promotional signs and banners with environmental slogans were created and posted throughout the facilities to promote environmental conservation.

  • One facility had a kite-flying contest. Employees designed and build kites made from waste found in the production and office areas.

  • Facilities designed logos and slogans and printed them on coffee cups and shirts for the employees.

  • Waste displays were set up all of the facilities. Samples of all waste types were categorized and posted on the walls so the employees could see the waste that was generated at their facility.

  • One facility established a �What bin does it go in� contest. Display boards showed waste samples and recycle container labels. The employees checked on a game card, which container each waste sample should be placed in. All employees who participated received a promotional gift and a drawing from correct cards was conducted for more substantial prizes.

Achieving Zero Waste to Landfill

Many technologies, suppliers, vendors and employees helped to allow REI to achieve zero waste to landfill. Each facility took part in a detailed verification process for the Zero Waste to Landfill Project. The verification was performed by a senior staff member from Ricoh Company, Ltd.�s Corporate Environmental Division and included the following key aspects:

  • Review of all internal documentation pertaining to the system, including procedures and forms.

  • Review of all internal processes pertaining to the system and the supporting data.

  • Environmental audit of all external recycling vendors including transportation companies.

  • Review of all supporting documentation from external recycling vendors including agreements and Certificates of Recycling.

Note: It took about 18 months to identify and develop recycling technology to prevent 100% of our waste stream from being disposed into Landfill. During that time, we promoted an environmental culture change from disposing of waste into landfill to waste reduction and recycling.

In December 2000, REI Georgia Plant became the first Ricoh�s North American Facility to receive Zero Waste to Landfill Certification (Level 2). In March 2001, the remaining North American Facilities achieved the same certification.

Not only was the goal achieved, but many additional results were also realized:

  • Increased environmental awareness among vendors and suppliers through the Green Purchasing Program.

  • Increased employee awareness of environmental conservation.

  • Increased community involvement.

Beyond Zero Waste to Landfill

Achievement of zero waste to landfill certification is just the first step in REI�s commitment to protecting our environment. Many future activities are in progress or planned:

Refinement of the Zero Waste to Landfill System  REI realizes that some current recycling technologies employed may not be the optimum utilization of our natural resources. Recycling processes generate waste and some of it may be sent for land disposal. REI is constantly looking for better technologies to improve resource recovery & eliminate disposal from the recycling processes.

Reduction of Thermal Recycling for Energy Recovery  In order to achieve the goal of zero waste to landfill, thermal recycling (for energy recovery) is a technology utilized by REI. The ultimate goal is to recycle in the most environmentally beneficial manner that involves increasing reuse and resource recycling and minimizing thermal recycling. It is REI�s environmental commitment to continue efforts in identifying alternative methods to recycle our waste.

Reduction of Waste Generated Ricoh will continue to strive for better, cleaner and greener manufacturing. Through REI�s TPM and Kaizen Management System, we are aggressively seeking to improve the efficiency of our manufacturing processes in order to minimize the quantity of waste we generate.

External Benchmarking  REI gained a lot of valuable knowledge by achieving zero waste to landfill certification. It is REI�s environmental responsibility to share this experience with other businesses and government agencies in hopes that others may follow.

Energy Conservation  Another key environmental activity will be the conservation of energy. Certain regions of North America are experiencing dangerously low levels of available energy. Environmentally, REI will strive to reduce the amount of energy it consumes.

Noise Reduction  Noise pollution is also a very important environmental problem. Internal and external noise levels shall be reduced at REI to below 85dB.

Community Involvement  REI will continue to support its communities through various activities. With these activities, REI hopes to increase awareness of environmental conservation throughout North America. These activities will reinforce the culture change established among REI employees. By participating in these activities, REI also hopes to spread this culture change into our communities.

Reduction of PRTR Chemicals  REI is also striving to eliminate or reduce the amount of hazardous chemical by-products. One such activity is the reduction of the use of toluene. Processed toluene raw material is recycled through a separation process and reused for internal parts cleaning.

Conclusion  In 22 short months, Ricoh Electronics was able to accomplish many environmental goals. The largest goal was the diversion of all its waste from landfill. In the process, a culture change occurred that directly effected over 1,500 employees and many suppliers and vendors. Indirectly, this Project effected many communities, employees� families and friends. The momentum from this environmental project will not be lost. Ricoh Electronics will continue to improve its Zero Waste to Landfill System and pursue additional environmental goals. In addition, Ricoh Electronics will continue to share this information and be a leader for other North American manufacturing facilities.


Mr. Lee Gjetley
E,H&S Division Manager, 
Ricoh Electronics, Inc.,
1100 Valencia, Tustin, CA 92780
[email protected]

Mr. Frantz Pierre
Ricoh Electronics, Inc., Georgia Plant
1125 Hurricane Shoals Rd., Lawrenceville, GA 30043
[email protected]


[1] Zero Waste America website.

[2] �Groundwater Pollution by Municipal Landfills:  Leachate Composition, Detection and Water Quality Significance,� Sardina �93IV International Landfill Symposium, Anne Jones-Lee, Ph.D. and G. Fred Lee, Ph.D.

[3] �The World Factbook 2000,� United States Central Intelligence Agency website, tml

[4] �The World Factbook 2000,�United Stated Central Intelligence Agency website,

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