E-commerce warehouses are often not environmentally friendly. They consume vast amounts of energy. Many pose dangers for their employees. Industrial trucks, lighting, heating, air conditioning – all of them cause emissions, some of them toxic.
Warehouses are noisy too. Machines in warehouses cause noise pollution. Machines, forklifts and conveyor belts generate high-intensity noises that are not only annoying, but also pose a health and safety risk.
And, unfortunately, warehouses can generate a lot of waste, mostly from product returns.
Emissions. Toxic warehouse emissions depend largely on the size, layout and design of the facility, inventory and equipment. The main culprits include:
- Exhaust gases from the collection and delivery of goods,
- Idling of industrial trucks such as forklifts,
- Chemical emissions or toxic gases from manufacturing or assembly processes,
- Poor ventilation, especially in winter,
- Bad maintenance of heating and air conditioning systems.
A current DHL whitepaper (PDF) entitled “ECO-mmerce: How Online Retail Can Build the Sustainable Supply Chain of Tomorrow” dealt with health and safety in the warehouse. The paper points out that “in order to improve the environmental performance of warehouses, logistics companies are increasingly turning to environmentally friendly materials handling equipment such as forklifts with newer, more efficient batteries and chargers. Companies are also increasing the speed of loading trucks and delivery vehicles. This helps to shorten the time trucks spend in distribution centers and reduce their emissions. “
Noise. The extent to which noise can affect people ranges from levels that impair speech understanding (annoyance and annoyance) to levels that have negative effects on health (hearing loss and psychological effects). Variables include the intensity, frequency, and pattern of the noise, and the type of work that exposes the person to the source of the noise.
Noise is measured in decibels (dB). The normal human ear can perceive sounds between 0 dB and 140 dB. Long-term exposure to noise levels above 75 dB significantly impairs the individual’s hearing and affects their physical and psychological well-being. Anything over 120 dB can cause discomfort or pain.
A very noisy work area can make it nearly impossible to hear warnings, alarms, and colleagues. Many noise protection regulations stipulate mitigation measures – such as baffles and other noise protection techniques – when the noise reaches a certain level. Hearing protection is a must in workplaces where volume levels and exposure times exceed permissible standards.
The noise of mechanical vibrations can expose personnel to permanent and debilitating health problems. An acoustic advisor can measure noise and vibrations and recommend measures to reduce them.
Waste. Companies that minimize warehouse waste avoid environmental damage while improving the health and safety of employees. And often there is no greater source of inventory waste than product returns.
“Returns are an important source of waste,” says the DHL paper. Retailers and logistics companies are accelerating the scale of recycling and sustainable packaging in their e-commerce stores. Containers and packaging make up the majority of municipal waste in the US, according to the latest data from the EPA, totaling 82.2 million tons in 2018. At the same time, the recycling rate of packaging and containers, also thanks to the increasing use of recycled materials, was 53.9% after 49.4% in 2017. Packaging systems must be designed carefully and with the least amount of material and energy, maximizing the recycling rate and increasing Reuse potential. “
Technology and design
Companies commissioning new warehouses and distribution centers use plant-specific calculations of the carbon footprint. Engineers and architects can configure energy-efficient and low-CO2 processes for conveyor systems and storage technologies. They compare the environmental impact of different structures and machines and advise on sustainable heating and cooling solutions.
Every aspect of a building affects the total energy that causes the CO2 emissions. A zero energy system produces enough renewable energy to cover its own annual energy consumption. This is the goal that global organizations want to achieve.