Driving the circular resource chain: Caterpillar

Driving the circular resource chain: Caterpillar

Waste Management Review speaks with Caterpillar’s Chaminda Senanayake and Charles Farrugia about the pair’s pioneering suite of sustainability initiatives. 

In its 2019 Sustainability Report, Caterpillar outlined a target to reduce water consumption intensity by 50 per cent from 2006 levels.

While the target applies to the machinery giant’s global operations, Caterpillar’s Melbourne, Tullamarine facility is playing a critical role.

Through an upgrade program spearheaded by Facility Engineer and Environmental Coordinator Chaminda Senanayake last year, Tullamarine’s reliance on mains water has dropped significantly.

The project involved replacing the facility’s underground piping system and installing rainwater tanks, and as a result, 22 per cent of Tullamarine’s water usage now comes from rainwater.

When Senanayake started at Tullamarine 14 years ago, he says there were no tanks and no water harvesting. Now, the facility has an onsite water capacity of 615,000 litres.

Senanayake outlined this and other sustainability initiatives when he and Caterpillar’s Facilities Manager Charles Farrugia sat down with Waste Management Review earlier this year.

Farrugia explains that for many years, Caterpillar’s Tullamarine facility had issues with water leaks.

While water wastage was a key concern, mains water supply breakdowns also created productivity issues, with segments of the facility needing to be shut down to repair the system.

“To address that, Senanayake initiated the mains water upgrade project, and while yes, we spent a lot of money, we now have operational reliability and are further contributing to the facility’s overall sustainability,” Farrugia says.

Farrugia and Senanayake’s sustainability program extends far beyond water, with key consideration given to every element of the resource chain.

They recently did away with under desk bins, for example, installing centralised waste and recycling hubs throughout the facility.

Tullamarine has over 150 desks, with each under desk bin changed daily prior to the change.

“Sometimes there’s just a coffee cup in the bin but it gets changed every day, so that’s unnecessary waste,” Senanayake explains.

The change was effectively made overnight, and while there was some initial resistance, Senanayake says the program was successful, with Caterpillar teams in Singapore and the United States seeking guidance on how Tullamarine achieved rapid behavioural change.

As a result of this and other projects, Caterpillar’s Tullamarine facility recycled 1633 million tonnes of waste in 2019, which equated to 91 per cent of waste generated at the site.

Additionally, when Caterpillar ungraded its pump house in 2019, every bit of steel was recycled.

Senanayake says this resulted in 4.9 tonnes of steel diverted from landfill.

Tullamarine also operates mobile phone, battery and coffee pod recycling drop off points, with grinds from coffee machines taken to the facility’s community garden for composting.

“Our cafeteria staff also take all the vegetable shavings and food waste to the chock shed, so it gets reused and doesn’t contribute to our waste,” Senanayake says.

Another key project was the installation of LED lights across the facility, which cut electricity costs in half over 18 months.

Tullamarine also installed a five-kilowatt solar panel two years ago, generating 7.1 megawatt hours of electricity in 2019.

While as with any business Caterpillar’s environmental programs need to be economically sustainable, Farrugia says that it’s not all about the dollars and cents for Caterpillar.

“When we launch a new project we have to engage with every stakeholder, but we’re not under pressure to just show the numbers or the return on investment. We also need to show how the project can improve the environment and the world we live in,” he says.

According to Farrugia, he and Senanayake’s recent initiatives have also produced positive educational and social outcomes.

“There’s been many times where we’ve implemented an initiative here, and someone’s gone home and initiated something similar elsewhere in their lives,” he says.

“Teaching people about recycling and sustainability is very important to us.”

Looking forward, Farrugia says he is excited by rapid technological development in the smart office space.

He explains that on a trip to Singapore last year, he visited a facility that had an interactive smart office touch screen monitor.

“The operator pulled up an office layer and we could see four people in an office and how much energy they were consuming,” Farrugia says.

“The operator could then use that information and understand that if those four people had booked a smaller office they would have consumed less energy.

“There’s great technology out there that can help us better manage our facilities and understand how behaviour is impacting the way we’re running our offices, so we’re going to be looking at that technology in the future.”

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