Procter and Gamble has recently announced a new program that bears a slight resemblance to what we used to call a treasure hunt, but the results P&G is seeing and the savings it’s achieved are no game.
The new GARP program, which stands for Global Asset Recovery Purchases, is a quest to find someone, somewhere, who can use what P&G no longer needs.
A company of this size–$79 billion–with this many product brands–82 in the US–serving this many people on a daily basis–4 billion–is bound to generate a certain amount of waste.
But if that company was to ask the question, as part of its commitment to waste reduction, “Isn’t there a way that we could use this stuff for something else, rather than just throwing it out?” And if that company were to make a serious, concerted effort to find real answers to that question, it might come up with something like GARP.
P&G did just that and it found that in many instances, leftover scrap, or material that was slightly out of specification for one product, could make a perfectly acceptable ingredient for something else.
For example: Always feminine pad scraps could be used to make cement in Hungary, a Metamucil byproduct could be used to help grass grow, Duracell ingredients could be used to make bricks, or Clairol hair coloring leftovers could be used to make a tire shine.
The program started two years ago with one employee; it is now a 25 person operation with 20 industrial partners around the world. Many of these partners are companies who specialize alternative use recycling. So if GARP can’t find a use for some material, there’s a good chance that one of its partners can.
This program has helped P&G reduce its disposable waste by 30 percent since 2007. In the past year alone, it has diverted tens of thousands of tons from landfills and delivered tens of millions of dollars in cost recovery to the company by selling or donating materials to others who can reuse the materials.
Locally, in Cincinnati, P&G provides certain types of scrap from its paper products to a non-profit company called InReturn that employs survivors of brain injuries. These workers use the material to make absorbent pads that can be sold at the InReturn store. This operation employs ten workers who might otherwise have no prospects.
At P&G, over 96% of all material used is converted into finished products. GARP works hard to find a home for the rest, moving toward the ultimate goal of zero waste.
Other examples include:
• repurposing of facial cream ingredients in China for leather care
• using scrap feminine pads in Budapest to fuel kilns at a local cement factory
• using outdated or off-spec ingredients used from toothpaste to make high-performance polish for mag wheels and jewelry.
For some great ideas on how to reuse waste around the house, take a look here.
RP Siegel is the co-author of the sustainability novel Vapor Trails.