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Earth Day 2023: We speak to Akanksha Sharma on STL embracing the circular economy – News9 LIVE

21 Apr 2023 13:29:PM
Sterlite Technologies (STL) is one of the largest manufacturers of fibre optic cables in the world. They have a significant presence in India, with the employees engaging with local communities for a number of social impact programmes oriented towards empowerment, healthcare, education and environment. They also have a focus on reducing water use as well as waste aligned with the Swaach Bharat Mission. STL is the first integrated optic fibre and cables manufacturer to receive the zero waste to landfill certification from Intertek for its manufacturing facilities in India. STL is also working towards aggressively reducing its carbon footprint, and building sustainable supply chains.
For Earth Day 2023, we spoke to Akanksha Sharma, Global Head of Social Impact and Sustainability at STL. We first asked how STL achieved the zero waste to landfill certification in India, and the challenges for achieving the same in other manufacturing locations. Akanksha tells us, “Our sustainability efforts are aligned with not just global agendas, but also national priorities. We evaluated our entire manufacturing process to not just bring in efficiencies and lessen waste, but also translate costs into revenue streams. Several of our by-products, such as sodium hypochlorite, are now sold to other industries, enabling us to promote circular use of resources while diverting this waste away from landfills.”
The manufacturing waste is tracked, and diverted from landfills, “For recycling, we ensure we partner with only PCB approved vendors and also ensure complete traceability on the end use of our waste. This has helped us divert over 200,000 MT tonnes of waste from landfills to date. STL has achieved zero waste to landfill at all of its manufacturing units that have been operational for over a year. These best practices are being replicated at our China and US plants as well. It is part of our operating protocol.”
We then asked what exactly happens to fibre optic cables at the end of their life cycles, and how STL tracks them. Akanksha tells us, “At STL, our goal is to have 100 per cent of our product families covered by life-cycle studies by 2030. This means we evaluate the entire product lifecycle, right from the sourcing of the raw material up until it is dispatched to our customers. This is an ISO 14040:2006 study that is verified externally and measures different environmental parameters across the value chain from cradle-to-gate. It includes data on factors like, the abiotic depletion potential, acidification potential, global warming potential, ozone depletion potential, photochemical ozone creation potential, human toxicity potential, primary energy demand, and blue water consumption in addition to several others. So far, we have conducted LCAs for 10 product families.”
The planets in India do not discharge any water at all. We wanted to know about the technologies implemented to reduce water use in the manufacturing process. Akanksha says, “To reduce water use, it is essential to look at recirculation opportunities within the manufacturing process. The utmost care should also be taken to avoid any release into communities. At STL, we have sewage and effluent treatment plants as well as a multi-effective evaporator through which wastewater from manufacturing is recycled and reused in some of our processes as well as for domestic purposes. To date 650,000+ cubic meters of water have been recycled. We have also proactively certified all our Indian plants in an effort to guarantee Zero Liquid Discharge. This ensures that no untreated wastewater pollutes the communities surrounding our operations.”
STL also uses a healthy mix of local and global suppliers. We asked about some of the positive experiences or outcomes when partnering with local suppliers. Akanksha tells us, “Maintaining an adequate balance of suppliers globally, nationally, and locally is fundamental to sustainable operations. The pandemic was a classic example where this balance became crucial for corporates to continue operations. With increasing weather imbalances across continents, partnering with local and national suppliers has become crucial. However, they need to be able to offer products at par with global standards and therefore need to be supported through upskilling and close collaboration. Additionally, sourcing locally also helps corporates reduce their carbon footprint.”
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