How is it possible to collect plastic bottles and karma at the same time?

Environment

Through commitment to a clean factory. How KION employee Chen Meifen is working for a cleaner environment.

Linde employee Chen Meifen encourages waste sorting in Xiamen.

Turning waste into raw materials Raising awareness of recycling and avoiding waste is now part of her job, but Chen Meifen has been committed to this cause for a long time. Concern for the environment has become a guiding principle for the Linde (China) employee.

The large metal canisters are lined up in a row – the first contains metal parts, the second cardboard, the third plastics, and the last one non-recyclable waste. Chen Meifen approaches the third container and removes plastic packaging and plastic film. She transports the material in her three-wheeled cargo bike from the production hall to the recycling station near the main entrance to the Linde (China) plant in Xiamen. Twice a day, the 44-year-old collects sorted waste from the various halls as part of Linde’s employee volunteer program. “I’ve been doing this since I started at Linde a few years ago. There are so many people who volunteer here, so I just want to join in,” Chen says as she takes the foil from her bike and adds it to a pile of plastic. Her job at Linde is to keep the site’s roads and paths clean and tidy. She only went to her village school for a few years, but she is continually educating herself by reading and watching TV – which is where she found out about current issues such as climate change and mountains of waste.

I’ve been doing this since I started at Linde a few years ago. There are so many people who volunteer here, so I just want to join in.

Chen Meifen
Linde employee in Xiamen

Fu Xiaorong, production manager and coordinator of the volunteer program’s environmental group, says that Linde has been separating its waste since 2011. The decision to do so was made by senior management. The committee, which was established soon after this, provided dedicated employees with a platform, says Fu, and since then it has raised awareness of environmental issues among the workforce. “We are much better at separating waste now,” Chen Meifen says. “Not so long ago, things would have landed in the wrong container. But now everything is sorted correctly.”

Sustainability is what drives Chen Meifen, and management supports this approach. In 2011, the decision was made to separate waste across the plant. Since then, everyone has learnt a lot about recycling.

And more and more employees are bringing their own water bottles to work and filling them up in the office or in the factory, Fu adds. “The staff no longer have their lunch delivered, which always involves a lot of packaging. They eat in the canteen instead.” The group also campaigned for the use of energy-saving light bulbs in the offices.

Of the more than 40 volunteers on the environmental group, 20 work on separating rubbish, says Fu. Every two weeks, they meet in the recycling station to sift through the rubbish that has been collected, for example to separate plastic bottles from film and cardboard from paper. And Chen Meifen is right at the heart of the action. She throws drinks cans into a huge plastic sack and, together with her colleagues, tears off sticky tape and paint residue from cardboard, which cannot be recycled otherwise.

Chen Meifen transports the collected waste across the site on her bicycle – with zero emissions.

Commitment and enthusiasm

“In the beginning, the employees had to be shown how to do it correctly,” says Ching Pong Quek, President of KION Asia-Pacific and member of the KION Executive Board. “Now they can do it themselves – and they enjoy it.” Quek also helps out, if time allows. He believes that Chen Meifen is setting a fantastic example. “She is fully committed, and her enthusiasm is infectious.” Quek places great value on effecting cultural change, for example by encouraging employees to avoid waste and live a little more responsibly. For Chen Meifen, environmental protection is part of her lifestyle. She also separates her trash at home, only buys reusable chopsticks, and uses a wicker basket for her shopping. Today, she is wearing a white blouse and a dark skirt made from recycled plastic bottles. She also brings her own water bottle to work. As a practicing Buddhist, she considers helping others and helping the environment to be part of daily life.

Waste is regularly sorted and prepared for recycling at the recycling station.

Chen Meifen believes it is important to use natural resources responsibly – at home and at work.

Linde (China) has teamed up with Tzu Chi, an NGO (non-government organization) that collects the separated waste and ensures it is recycled into raw materials. Plastic is turned into clothing and blankets, for example, which the global organization either sells or uses for disaster relief.

Environmental training

You have to catch them early if you want to live in a clean environment – Linde (China) invites groups of children to learn about recycling in a fun way.

Where does that go? Sorting waste is child's play.

Transferring knowledge

Two days later, Chen Meifen is standing in front of a group of children who have been invited by Linde to an environmental training, and explains the principle behind sorting waste. It’s then off to the recycling station, where they learn how to sort waste with the environmental group. The boys and girls are confronted with a mountain of empty bottles and cans, and throw them into separate baskets. Chen is patient and laughs a lot. She is happy to see that some of the children are totally absorbed in their task.

According to Zhang Yuyi, whose eight-year-old son even sorts bottles and paper at home, separating rubbish has been an important lesson in Xiamen that has helped to raise the children’s awareness of environmental issues. Children are the future generation, so it makes sense that they learn about the importance of protecting the environment from an early age, says Chen Meifen. Then she shows a boy which one is the right basket for the coke bottle he is holding.