Boeing Reduces Solid Waste Sent to Landfills

Exploring Boeing's top environmental priorities
Sep 25, 2017 3:25 PM ET

**This is the 16th and final article in a series focusing on The Boeing Company's environmental performance and progress in 2016. Visit for more information.**

Today’s major manufacturers can be measured by their commitment to optimal management and reduction of solid waste produced by their operations. Boeing is no exception.

Our goal is to stay at or below 2012 levels of waste sent to landfills while continuing to grow our company. In fact, even with revenues up more than 15 percent since 2012, we have reduced our absolute waste to landfills by nearly 19 percent.

The Boeing strategy places priority on reducing the use of resources by designing processes to minimize or reuse materials. When that is not possible, we seek to recycle or compost those materials, or use them as an energy source.

Boeing’s Enhanced Recycling program is an example of that strategy in action. At each facility where it has been implemented, Boeing employees separate waste into color-coded bins labeled for mixed recycling, composting, and waste to landfill (or incineration). The system is designed to divert up to 80 percent of waste from landfill or incineration.

Enhanced Recycling is now being used in locations that, added together, house more than 45 percent of our workforce. Plans are in place for extensive expansion of the program by the end of 2017.

The first conservation priority, however, is to find ways to reduce or reuse resources. Boeing has a number of projects that work to make change at the source of waste.

Boeing employs “roaming print” technology on 4,200 network office printers (and growing). By only printing jobs when an employee actually goes to the printer to pick it up, Boeing has reduced unnecessary printed paper as well as reducing energy use and using fewer toner cartridges.

Boeing Supplier Management is adding more stringent oversight to purchasing of nonproduction products and services. To date, this process change has resulted in a 35 percent reduction in orders processed.

As we use more carbon fiber to develop lighter aircraft and reduce product emissions, we are finding ways to reduce excess material creation. We are calibrating our production processes to use less material. We’re exploring and implementing ways to reuse or recycle the remaining material.

Currently, we sell uncured material on our surplus sales website at below-market cost. We’re also collaborating with business partners to test ways to recover and recycle fibers. (Cured carbon fiber presents a greater challenge because of manufacturing requirements and technology barriers.)

Boeing is also reducing materials through additive manufacturing. This is a process of creating an object by adding material, usually layer upon layer (like 3D printing), whereas subtractive manufacturing methodologies cut material away, resulting in greater waste.

These processes significantly minimize volumes of excess materials. Robotic Automated Fiber Placement (AFP) and similar technologies enable better use of material and more efficient fabrication of large-scale parts at higher production rates.