Intel is committed to caring for our people and the planet by integrating design for the environment and safety principles into all aspects of our business; from the development of our products, through our supply chain and manufacturing.
The Intel campus in Leixlip is home to facilities where we manufacture computer chips. The process of making computer chips is called fabrication and the factories where chips are made are called fabrication facilities, or ‘fabs’. Intel’s fabs are amongst the most technically advanced manufacturing facilities in the world. We use a photolithographic “printing” process to build a chip layer by layer on circular discs or ‘wafers’ made of silicon. Many layers are deposited across the wafer and then removed in small areas to create transistors and interconnects. The stages involved in creating these layers rely largely on chemical and electronic processes. Our manufacturing operations are underpinned by rigorous environmental management systems to protect the environment.
Central to these systems is our Environmental Health and Safety (EHS) team who oversee all aspects of safety and environmental management at our campus here in Leixlip. From compliance with licences and regulations to innovative programs that provide safeguards for the workplace and the wider community, the team have an uncompromising commitment to safety and environmental excellence.
The EHS team includes a number of environmental engineers who have a variety of responsibilities at the campus. We recently caught up with Emer O’Brien, who is responsible for waste management at Intel, to find out more about her role.
Emer grew up in Kerry and Dublin and studied Business Management in Dublin Institute of Technology. She spent eight years working in the commercial division of a medical devices company in Boston and San Francisco before returning to Ireland to work in the pharmaceutical industry. Having a keen interest in environmental issues, Emer began studying for a B.Sc. in Environmental Management with Sligo Institute of Technology and then went on to do an M.Sc. in Environmental Science with Trinity College Dublin. At this point Emer switched career paths and joined environmental consultancy AWN Consulting. Having worked for 3 years on assignment with Intel, she joined Intel directly as an Environmental Engineer in April 2021.
Within the Environment team at Intel, Emer’s role focuses on the management of waste produced at the site;
“There are extensive legislative requirements governing waste in the European Union (EU) and here in Ireland. This is reflected in a number of strict conditions in our Industrial Emissions Licence with regard to waste management practices with which the site must comply. Consequently, my role is very much focused on compliance.
All waste produced by the Intel site has to be classified as either hazardous or non-hazardous waste and assigned an appropriate European Waste Catalogue (EWC) code. The application of the EWC code ensures the same type of waste being generated in all European countries is assigned the same waste code. There are over 800 waste codes, so we need to gather data on each waste stream or each waste item the site generates to be able to correctly classify the waste. This involves talking to the waste generator on site to determine what their waste consists of, reviewing chemical safety data sheets, doing swab tests and/or sending samples off to an external lab for analysis.
Every year we report the total amount of waste generated at the site under the different EWC codes to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as part of our Annual Environmental Report. The EPA in turn reports this data to the EU. This ensures that the EU has a greater understanding of the volume trends for each of the waste types being generated across all EU countries. This data is used to guide EU decisions on future waste management improvements and future waste legislation.
Our environmental licence also requires that waste as a minimum is segregated into different waste streams, placed in the correct waste containers, stored only in designated waste storage areas on site and all waste containers are correctly labelled to indicate the waste they contain. Every person working at Intel has a role to play in this compliance. A simple example of this is evident in the office areas. There are 4 bin types located in each of the WE RECYCLE office areas which are labelled to indicate the types of waste that should be placed in each bin. When each of us takes ten seconds to check the bin labels and place our waste items in the correct bin, we are contributing to our waste being managed in a more sustainable and environmentally friendly way.
In the environment team here at Intel, we strive to go beyond this compliance through the implementation of our ISO 14001 certified Environmental Management System where we set additional objectives with regard to waste management at the site. These objectives are intertwined with Intel’s RISE 2030 sustainability goals which are set for all Intel factories across the globe. These are long term goals which each Intel factory must strive to achieve. Two of Intel’s seven 2030 RISE sustainability goals are waste focused:
- Achieve zero total waste to landfill
- Implement circular economy strategies for 60% of our manufacturing waste streams in partnership with our suppliers
As part of the implementation of the EU Green Deal, in 2020, the EU published the 2020 Circular Economy Action Plan - For a cleaner and more competitive Europe. This placed a clear focus on the need to start considering waste not as something simply to be discarded but as a resource. Intel’s RISE 2030 goals mirror the EU’s policy direction.
Between the environment team on site and our corporate colleagues in Intel’s Supply Chain Organisation, Intel has partnered for many years with our waste management suppliers to move waste up the ‘waste management hierarchy’ from disposal/landfill to recovery, recycling and reuse. For example, some of our chemical liquid waste streams are now processed for use as an input to agricultural fertiliser, as solvent product for resale and as an ingredient in cement manufacturing for non-infrastructural cement. As a result, here at the Ireland site we are currently exceeding the 2030 RISE target of managing 60% of our manufacturing waste streams using a circular economy strategy. When the new factory onsite, which is currently under construction, becomes operational there will be an increase in waste generation and the RISE 2030 waste goal will become challenging to meet. We will be working closely with, and relying on our waste management suppliers, to help us to reach that 2030 target.
On a personal level, it’s rewarding to work in a company where there is such an active focus on the Circular Economy and where at a corporate level there is support for active partnership with waste management suppliers to develop the innovative solutions needed to manage waste as a resource. This is particularly important now given that more sustainable waste management can translate into a reduction in carbon footprint and ultimately can contribute to helping Ireland meet its climate targets”.
Check out the other installments of our Environmental Health and Safety series;
Part 1 – Michael Cullen explains the role of the Environmental Health and Safety team
Part 2 – Kevin Moloney explains the management of water systems at Intel
Part 3 – Ronan Kearney on the management of air emissions at the Intel campus
Part 4 – Alessandro Guerriero on the management of noise at the Intel campus
Part 5 - Edel Fogarty gives an insight into Intel’s Occupational Health team