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Zero-waste logistics: Waste management strategies in Bangladesh & beyond

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In our rapidly advancing world, waste management has become a pressing concern. From industrial production to daily living, diverse activities generate various types of solid, liquid, and gaseous waste, including e-waste from discarded electronics, medical waste from hospitals, and food waste from households. 

It’s also important not to overlook the logistics sector that forms the backbone of global trade and commerce. In fact, the sheer magnitude of this industry brings about significant waste management problems in our increasingly interconnected world, including Bangladesh. 

Let’s take a closer look at these issues in this sector and strategies that can pave the way towards a zero-waste future. 

3 types of waste in the logistics industry

The logistics sector encounters waste in many forms, such as inefficient fuel consumption, excess packaging, and even wasted man-hours due to inefficient operations. 

1. Inefficient fuel consumption

Transport is at the heart of logistics as goods and services are delivered from producers to consumers. However, inefficient routes, frequent starts and stops, poor vehicle management, and improper loading can all increase fuel consumption. 

Beyond costs, this type of waste also contributes significantly to greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution.

2. Excess packaging

Besides transport, packaging is another essential component of logistics, ensuring products reach their destinations safely. 

However, excessive non-biodegradable materials contribute to significant waste. The accumulation of such packaging can exacerbate landfill problems and increase the carbon footprint.

3. Wasted man-hours due to inefficient operations

Time is a resource as precious as any material good in logistics. Inefficient processes, be it due to poor planning, lack of training, or outdated outsourcing vs in-house methods, can lead to man-hours being wasted.

This translates into increased operational costs for businesses. On a human level, it can lead to job dissatisfaction as employees might feel their time is not being valued. From an operational standpoint, wasted man-hours can cause delays, affecting the entire supply chain and, ultimately, the end consumer.

3 strategies for a zero-waste future in logistics

What exactly is zero-waste? Zero-waste signifies a holistic approach to resource use, ensuring that products and materials are reused and recycled, aiming for zero trash sent to landfills or incinerators.

The path to this sort of future in logistics may seem challenging, but it's achievable with concerted efforts from businesses, governments, and the public.

1. Reduce, reuse & recycle

The fundamental 3Rs – Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle – align directly with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 12, which ensures responsible, sustainable consumption and production patterns in Bangladesh and the rest of the world.

The first and perhaps the most impactful step is to reduce the amount of waste generated. In logistics, this could involve using efficient packaging methods to minimise the use of materials, implementing digital strategies to reduce paper waste, or optimising delivery routes to manage fuel consumption.

Next, it's worth evaluating if items have a secondary use before considering discarding them. For instance, companies can use collapsible crates and bins which can be folded when not in use, saving space during transport and storage. Additionally, reusable straps, latches, or seals can also be used to secure crates or containers, reducing the need for disposable sealants.

If an item can't be reused, the next step is determining if it can be recycled. By setting up or collaborating with dedicated recycling centres, companies can ensure that materials like paper, plastic, and metals are separated, collected, processed, and repurposed instead of being sent to landfills. 

Complementing the 3Rs, composting provides an effective solution for organic waste like food remains and biodegradable materials. Converting organic waste into nutrient-rich compost not only diverts waste from landfills but also provides a valuable resource for agriculture and gardening.

2. Employee training and engagement

An invested employee can be the key to efficient waste management. For instance, offering training sessions that illuminate the detrimental effects of waste on the environment can drive impactful changes. When employees grasp the larger picture – the ecological implications and the organisational benefits – they are more likely to be proactive in waste management. 

Beyond theoretical knowledge, practical, hands-on training is also essential. This can range from demonstrating the correct recycling bin usage to more complex procedures, such as managing electronic waste or hazardous materials.

3. Waste reduction in the supply chain

Lastly, critically examining the supply chain can reveal many sustainable and waste reduction opportunities.

For example, route optimisation tools that map out the most efficient distribution networks can drastically reduce fuel consumption. Furthermore, innovations like smart bins that can sort and manage waste or AI-driven analytics for predicting waste generation are leading the way.

Leading shipping companies like DHL Express are also creating projects and setting up systems in this direction, showcasing that waste management and efficient logistics can go hand in hand.

How is DHL Express going green? 

With a bold ambition of reaching net-zero emissions by 2050, DHL has implemented various eco-friendly strategies. These strategies bolster our green commitment and enable our customers to meet their sustainable development goals in Bangladesh and worldwide.

GoGreen solutions

DHL Express adopts environmentally sustainable practices to help our customers minimise logistics-related emissions during shipping. These green practices include:

  • DHL’s carbon report: Customers receive an in-depth assessment of their carbon output, suggesting avenues for mitigation.
  • DHL carbon dashboard and DHL quick scan: Customers are provided with comprehensive visual depictions of their complete logistics flow, pinpointing opportunities for bolstering carbon efficiency and trimming expenses.
  • DHL logistics consulting: Businesses are equipped with strategies to imbibe eco-friendly practices, streamlining their networks to emit fewer greenhouse gases.
  • GoGreen Climate Neutral: Companies can offset greenhouse gas emissions by contributing to environmental conservation initiatives.

GoGreen Plus solutions

For air cargo, DHL has transitioned to sustainable aviation fuels (SAF) to reduce Tank-to-Wake and Well-to-Wake carbon emissions. This solution works through a dual approach – insetting (switching from fossil fuels to SAF) and offsetting (compensating emissions through VER Gold Standard carbon credit projects). 

Beyond the air, DHL Express also aims to ensure that 60% of its last-mile fleet are electric vehicles by 2030. These vehicles run on renewable energy, minimising businesses’ carbon footprint.

Why not work with DHL Express to implement the above waste management services and quickly achieve your sustainability goals in Bangladesh and beyond?