Apprentices develop waste prevention concepts

As a manufacturing company, the Mibelle Group generates undesirable waste when producing care products. The Mibelle Group takes great pains to reduce and prevent waste. Now, two teams of apprentices have addressed the topic and created waste prevention concepts.

  • Kimi Häggi from the apprentice project team: “Semi-finished product is left behind in the pipes and tanks during production. The apprentices developed two concepts to optimise evacuation of the pipes and to reduce the waste.”

  • Apprentice project team which investigated waste in preparation, manufacture and packaging. From the left: Severin Stenz, Francisco Martins Pinto, Roman Zeller, Jasmin Leonhardt, Amir Haliti and Kimi Häggi.

  • The apprentices’ concepts: 1st idea - compressed air is pushed through the pipes with a pig to reduce product loss to a minimum.

  • The apprentices’ concepts: 2nd idea - a sensor is installed in the tank base and compressed air blown through the empty tank. The air vent removes this until the tank is completely empty.

  • The apprentices found that waste costs a lot of money: 30 new bottles have to be produced and sold to cover the costs of disposing of a filled bottle (special disposal).

  • As part of a the med day organised by the apprentices, they took a close look at where the Mibelle Group’s Buchs site generates waste and how it is separated and then disposed of.

Early awareness and the subject of disposal and recycling

“Our apprentices are our future employees and managers, which is why the Mibelle Group wants to make its junior employees aware of waste disposal and recycling early on”, explains Arno Merki, the Mibelle Group’s Safety, Health & Environment Manager in Buchs. This gave rise to the idea of tasking the apprentices with creating two waste reduction concepts. The apprentices were assisted by mentors and project sponsors. The aim was for the apprentices to develop a company sustainability project, which encompassed the company as a whole, as independently as possible and in the process acquire important soft skills. Lots of thought, brainstorming and creativity were required when devising the proposed solutions for how to reduce, avoid, recycle and dispose of waste.

Apprentice project 1: Waste reduction in preparation, packing and production

The second year apprentices used a defined production order to record waste created in preparation, production and packing, analysed what caused the waste to be generated and compiled the results. An employee survey generated additional information on the subject of waste.

“We realised that in Production a large quantity of semi-finished products remained behind in the pipes, production tanks and machinery itself”, explained Kimi Häggi from the apprentice project team. In their concept, they therefore suggested two solutions to optimise evacuation of the pipes and to reduce the waste. For the first concept a sensor was installed in the tank floor. The compressed air is blown through the empty tank until the semi-finished product no longer covers the sensor. The compressed air is then sucked out using an air vent until the tank is completely empty. This idea means the maximum amount of filling material is forced out, without causing the semi-finished product to start foaming.

In the case of the second idea, pig technology is used to push a pig through the pipes using compressed air. This reduces product loss in the pipes to a minimum during emptying. Both ideas from the apprentice project teams have been passed on for further consideration.

Apprentice project 2: 5% reduction in domestic waste

As part of the second sustainability project, apprentices from the second to last year investigated opportunities to reduce the Mibelle Group’s domestic refuse at the Buchs site by at least 5%. The apprentices organised a waste awareness day and looked at the causes of waste at the Mibelle Group in Buchs, how and where it is separated and finally disposed of. Additional important information came from a visit to Transport AG, where domestic refuse is separated, and the nearby incinerator in Buchs. The apprentices took 10 measurements for the domestic refuse and learned that 60% of it could be separated further. The majority of the waste was composed of paper, PET, plastic and tins. They brainstormed to find a solution and proposed placing of additional collection points in suitable locations and installing a water dispenser to reduce PET. The apprentices also wanted to draw employees’ attention to correct waste management through a teaching video which they would produce themselves and an interactive exhibition.

Learning soft skills

The apprentices were able to acquire important project management skills during both projects. “We learned how to plan and work methodically, in a structured and focussed manner. In addition we got practice at time management and realised the importance of good communication for a successful project. The apprentices are very proud that we were entrusted with this sustainability project. The support we received throughout was fantastic”, enthuses Kimi Häggi.

Final presentation of the results and ideas was another learning curve for the apprentices, as they had to choose the appropriate presentation techniques and what makes a presentation appealing. Arno Merki is pleased to say that “The fact that apprentices are able to look at sustainability using specific projects was very well received in the Mibelle Group”.


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