Machines crush material waste into smaller pieces to be used in Kohler’s Beneficial Reuse program

Making the case for waste.

Kohler’s beneficial reuse program.

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Managing Kohler’s beneficial reuse program may not qualify as a conventional sales job, but sales is a big part of Tony Biddle's day-to-day activities. The Environment, Health & Safety (EHS) specialist spends his days finding new channels for his product and building relationships with potential customers just as he would in a traditional sales role.

Let's start with the product. In 2015 Kohler recycled 59 percent of the 289,790 metric tons of waste generated globally. How does Biddle’s team tackle the daunting task of finding ways to reuse over 200,000 metric tons of waste? They start by looking at the big picture.

Biddle refers to three main routes for recycling and reuse:

1. Construction materials – Materials like slag and sand can be used as bases for roadways and other construction projects.

2. Raw materials – Kohler-produced waste that other companies see as raw material. Examples include pottery cull which is used to create tile or pottery molds used in the production of cement.

3. Miscellaneous – This includes the hard-to-recycle materials considered for reuse within Kohler, reclaimed metals or waste used to create completely new commercial products in the Innovation for Good Waste Lab.

"I have to understand the characteristics of a variety of materials," Biddle said, "to help match those materials with the industries that find those characteristics desirable." For example, construction companies require particles of a certain size for use as road bases. Cull, the waste generated when vitreous china products don't meet Kohler's strict standards for quality, is crushed to meet these size specifications.

"I make a lot of calls to potential customers, manufacturing and industry associations and network at conferences, send a lot of samples and …find a lot of dead ends," Biddle admitted. "In some cases, it's still difficult to make people understand the benefit of reuse when they can dig virgin material out of the ground." Where does Biddle see his role in the coming years? "I'd rather spend more time understanding why we're making the waste in the first place than to look for more ways to get rid of it," he said. "Waste will always be generated, but our team is taking a common sense look at our processes to find ways to reduce the waste stream."


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