Over the past four years, Kraft Foods employees have reduced net waste from manufacturing plants by 30% from 2005 levels, exceeding a goal of a 15% reduction by 2011. Employees are constantly raising the bar—improving efficiency and changing behavior, business practices, and culture—and creating new partnerships to turn waste into something of value, the company relates.
“Employees took our aggressive waste reduction goal and ran with it,” says Steve Yucknut, vice president, Sustainability. “Not only did they meet our goal two years early, they simply crushed it by doubling our performance with a 30-percent reduction. Their enthusiasm has made a huge impact. In fact, we now recycle or reuse 90 percent of our manufacturing waste.”
For Kraft Foods, manufacturing accounts for the vast majority of its solid waste output, so its plants are a natural place to take action. In 2007, the company launched a program with the global packaging and recycling company Sonoco to substantially reduce waste in plants. The ultimate objective: send zero waste to landfills.
Today, nine Kraft Foods facilities have achieved zero-waste-to-landfill status: three Canadian plants (Mississauga, Oakville, and Scarborough, Ontario); five U.S. plants (New Ulm, MN; Fair Lawn, NJ; Philadelphia and Allentown, PA; and Suffolk, VA); and a U.S. distribution center (Bethlehem, PA). In Europe, most of the company’s plants are essentially net waste-free, and elsewhere, many plants have made significant reductions through partnerships to put waste to work.
Among some of Kraft’s success stories are the following:
• Kraft Foods’ Allentown plant has been on a journey of zero-waste-to-landfill for several years. Employees created a campaign to focus colleagues on a zero-waste goal, which they achieved earlier this year. The plant has reduced its trash pickup schedule 84%, from 328 times/year to just 52 through recycling, reuse, and raising awareness.
• Kraft Foods’ Fairlawn bakery became a zero-waste-to-landfill plant in February after its employee recycling team found creative ways to collect the plant's recyclables and worked with a vendor to find places to send much of its recyclable waste. The plant reused three machines to compact plastic film trays for recycling, and its recycling team set up storage cages throughout the plant to collect other plastic materials and oversee collections. The plant partners with a local waste-to-energy generator for materials that can’t be recycled.
• Waste-to-energy projects at Kraft Foods’ cheese plants in Lowville and Campbell, NY, create enough renewable energy to heat about 2,600 typical homes in the Northeast for one year. Besides producing Philadelphia cream cheese, Kraft Cheese, and Polly-O Italian-style cheese, the plants offset about 30% of their natural gas needs by creating biogas through anaerobic digesters that turn whey waste—a regular byproduct of cheesemaking—into biogas. This reduces the amount of solid waste each plant produces and reduces nonrenewable energy for use.
• Employees at Kraft Foods’ New Ulm plant reduced waste by 40% over the past four years by fine-tuning their operations and changing behavior. In 2009 alone, the plant recycled 2.4 million lb of cardboard, cores, and paper. This year, the plant became zero-waste-to-landfill after finding a partner to send remaining waste to a local energy recovery facility. Employees have been working for many years to reduce waste. In fact, for the past 15 years, they have converted organic food waste to animal feed instead of sending it to landfills.
• Kraft Foods’ flavorings plant in Albany, MN, reduced waste more than 60% in the past year by creating a new recycling program. And its all-volunteer, employee-led “Green Team” is making other improvements, helping the plant reduce energy use more than 20% and water usage by 13% in the past year.
• Kraft Foods’ Planters nuts plant in Suffolk reduced its waste to landfill more than 50% since 2006. Employees found ways to divert many sources of waste—like plastics, cardboard, composites, and organic waste—from landfills to recycling centers. And this month, the plant is now zero waste to landfill as remaining solid waste gets sent to a local waste-to-energy generator.
• Three Canadian plants—Mississauga, Oakville, and Scarborough, Ontario—have reached zero-waste-to-landfill status through careful reduction and management. Organic waste is repurposed as animal feed, packaging and plastics are recycled, and any residual waste is sent to a waste-to-energy facility.
• Kraft Foods’ focus on waste reduction has had a positive impact on customers, too. The company’s Bethlehem distribution center is the first zero-waste-to-landfill facility of its kind in the U.S. Employees have helped reduce waste by 30% for several key customers compared to 2008. The teams use proprietary software that integrates customers’ point-of-sale data to send just the right amount of products to each location, minimizing overstocks and unsalable goods. And employees separate recyclables, organics, and waste on site, sending waste to an energy facility where it is burned as fuel.