Chemical Maker Goes Beyond Recycling

Corporate waste-reduction initiatives span the entire supply chain

By Cathy Combs, Eastman Chemical Co.

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Sustainability has proven not only to be the “right thing to do,” but also a significant growth driver at Eastman. We have invested substantial resources in sustainable technology, products and processes. Several comprehensive waste-reduction and management programs across the company’s global footprint underpin our sustainability strategy.

Our waste-reduction strategies range from large-scale, company-wide initiatives to smaller, more-localized efforts that are yielding meaningful results.

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Supply-Chain Efficiency

One of the most important factors contributing to sustainable manufacturing — especially within the chemical industry — is supply chain efficiency. It’s estimated that more than $2 trillion worth of chemical materials are shipped each year; these shipments require a vast international transportation network of ships, trains, trucks and planes. To reduce waste and minimize the environmental impact of this network, it’s critical that chemical companies and suppliers work together to create a globally integrated supply chain.

One strategy employed by Eastman involves alternative supply arrangements or “bilateral agreements” in which manufacturers transfer ownership of chemical materials across international borders. Such arrangements are feasible because different chemical makers in various locations around the world produce many of the same materials. So, rather than two companies simultaneously shipping the same chemicals to customers in each other’s geographic region, they can simply exchange orders and ship to the nearer customer, effectively cutting out substantial transportation-related waste (Figure 1).

Eastman’s bilateral agreements account for more than 20,000 metric tons of product every year. In addition to the obvious cost savings involved, the agreements can play a significant role in reducing carbon emissions. Eastman saves about 3,000 t/y of CO2 emissions compared to conventional shipping, which equates to about 4% of the total environmental impact of the products shipped from “cradle-to-gate,” i.e., from raw materials extraction through the point of sale.


Like all chemical manufacturers, Eastman requires a substantial amount of energy to power its advanced facilities and manufacturing plants. The company uses several strategies and processes to ensure operations are as efficient as possible. One key element is cogeneration — also known as combined heat and power (CHP) — which involves recovering heat that otherwise would be wasted during electricity generation.

Our manufacturing site in Kingsport, Tenn., has used cogeneration successfully for more than 80 years. The facility’s cogeneration systems produce enough energy to support onsite manufacturing processes, help regulate heating and cooling for more than 600 buildings, and run 19 steam turbine generators with a combined capacity of 200 MW (enough to power a city of nearly 170,000 homes).

In fact, cogeneration has helped Eastman convert more than 70% of the energy obtained from fossil fuel into power and steam for manufacturing. This, in turn, decreases the company’s greenhouse gas emissions. Using cogeneration at the Kingsport site alone reduces emissions equivalent to taking 131,000 cars off the road each year. Our success has received important recognition. In 2014, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) honored Eastman with an Energy Star CHP Award for excellence in combined heat and power operations.

Eastman’s worldwide energy management program, led by a full-time certified energy manager, drives energy projects and improvements across the organization. Since 2008, we’ve seen an 8% reduction in energy intensity. As a result of our energy management efforts, the EPA has recognized Eastman with five consecutive Energy Star Partner of the Year awards. We’ve received the Sustained Excellence award, EPA’s highest Energy Star honor, for the past three years. We are the only chemical company to be recognized more than once and the only one to achieve Sustained Excellence status. We continue to build on the progress we’ve made as we work to meet our 2020 goal to reduce energy intensity by 20% compared to the 2008 baseline.

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