As a longtime business practice, Norfolk Southern has recovered, reused, and recycled many industrial-process materials, such as track crossties. The company now is going after items that could be recycled but instead have been ending up in trash cans and waste bins in rail yards, shop facilities, and offices. The goal is to reduce the amount of trash the company is sending to landfills.
In addition to the environmental benefits associated with recycling, we have an economic incentive for doing so. Because the company pays for waste disposal by the ton, keeping trash out of landfills also will lower the railroad’s waste collection bill.
Waste Diversion a Challenge
With facilities across 22 states, waste diversion on a systemwide basis is one of the company’s largest sustainability challenges. In 2013, the company tracked trash collection at more than 750 individual facilities. Based on available information, those facilities generated 20,125 tons of trash. Of that, 1,143 tons were kept out of landfills through recycling, for a diversion rate of 5.7 percent.
Recycling occurred at roughly 10 percent of the facilities. One challenge the company faces in increasing that percentage is that recycling programs are not available in every municipality where the railroad operates.
To better manage the company’s waste stream, Norfolk Southern has centralized oversight for trash collection and hired a single waste contractor to handle collections. In 2013, the company worked with the contractor on a “right-sizing” strategy to ensure that facilities have the right number and size of waste bins, a strategy that can reduce collection frequency and costs. The railroad also has worked with the contractor on a waste-stream audit to identify opportunities to expand recycling.
Recycling Railroad Materials
Norfolk Southern recycles and reuses industrial railroad materials. This program keeps millions of pounds of track crossties, scrap metals, scrap steel rail and railcar wheel sets, and batteries out of landfills while conserving resources through reuse. In addition, locomotive shops and large fueling facilities in 2013 recycled 1.6 million gallons of recovered oil.
2013 materials recycled
- Crossties for energy recovery (millions): 2.77
- Crossties for landscaping: 519,680
- Crossties reused internally (cascading category in last year’s report): 235,801
- Scrap metal (tons): 128,531
- Scrap steel (tons): 260,539
2013 battery recycling
- Pounds of batteries (millions): 1.03
- Pounds of lead: 614,270
- Pounds of cadmium: 28,980
- Pounds of nickel: 30,277
2013 track material replaced
- Crossties (millions): 2.4
- Switch & bridge ties: 84,854
- Rail: 443 miles
- Tons of ballast (millions): 3.2
Juniata Shop Keeps It Clean
The company’s Juniata Locomotive Shop is an achiever when it comes to recycling. In 2013, the shop earned a certificate of environmental achievement from the Safety-Kleen “Make Green Work” program through its participation in Safety-Kleen’s closed-loop recycling program for used oil and cleaning solvents.
Between Aug. 1, 2012, and Aug. 1, 2013, Juniata avoided 750 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions through employee efforts to recycle used oil and solvents.
Using the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s calculator of carbon dioxide equivalents, Safety-Kleen calculated that the emissions avoided were equal to consuming 84,143 gallons of gasoline or to the amount of carbon absorbed by 19,449 trees grown for 10 years in an urban environment.
Juniata, a 70-acre facility with 30 acres under roof, is the largest locomotive repair facility in North America. During the past four years of participating in Make Green Work, the shop has avoided 4,272 metric tons of CO2 equivalent emissions.
Managing Hazardous Wastes: Focus on Recycling, Recovering
In 2013, Norfolk Southern had four locations considered large-quantity generators of hazardous waste – facilities that generate 1,000 kilograms or more of such wastes in any given month of the year.
Two locations were onetime generators – a building cleanup at Danville Yard in Danville, Ky., and a federal government Superfund site cleanup in Elkhart, Ind. The other two locations are major locomotive repair facilities – the Juniata Locomotive Shop in Altoona, Pa., and Moore Locomotive Shop in Chattanooga, Tenn. – that generated painting-related wastes.
The quantities of hazardous wastes generated are shown below.
- 37,786 pounds of spent paint and solvent: Handled by fuel blending
and off-site fuel recovery
- 3,460 pounds of spent immersion cleaner: Recycled for reuse
- 12,875 pounds of spent antifreeze: Recycled for reuse
- 24,640 pounds of spent paint and solvent: Handled by fuel recovery
- 1,843 pounds of spent laboratory solvent: Handled by fuel recovery
- 2,302 pounds of spent lab pack waste: Handled by fuel recovery
- 158 pounds of waste lead paint scrapings: Sent to a hazardous-waste landfill
- 4,253 pounds of waste flammable-liquid mixture: Handled by fuel blending for energy recovery
- 4,222 pounds of impacted groundwater: Handled by stabilizing prior to disposal in a hazardous-waste landfill