Photo: D'Arcy Norman, Flickr
Everyone knows Kraft Foods as a supermarket giant, churning out iconic products like Oreos and Philadelphia cream cheese on a massive scale. But since a major green initiative in 2005, they're making a lot less of one thing: garbage.
Over the past four years, the company has reduced net waste from manufacturing plants by 30 percent, exceeding a goal of a 15 percent reduction by 2011, according to company officials. When you're a company this big – Kraft is the world's second-largest food company, with a staggering $48 billion in revenues -- that kind of reduction makes a huge environmental impact.
"Employees took our aggressive waste reduction goal and ran with it," said Steve Yucknut, Vice President of Sustainability, in a company press release. "Not only did they meet our goal two years early, they simply crushed it."
He added: "Their enthusiasm has made a huge impact. In fact, we now recycle or reuse 90 percent of our manufacturing waste."
So how did the massive shift in consciousness happen? In 2007, the company partnered with the global packaging and recycling company Sonoco to substantially reduce waste, and today, nine of its facilities -- six of them in the U.S. -- have achieved zero-waste-to-landfill status.
A lot of it has to do with the definition of "zero waste," since it's not as though the plants aren't generating garbage. But now, instead of tossing cardboard, paper, and food waste, plant managers are finding ways to recycle or repurpose it. And the numbers are huge: At a plant in New Ulm, MN, for example, employees recycled 2.4 million pounds of cardboard, cores and paper last year. This year, the plant became zero-waste-to-landfill after finding a partner to send remaining waste to a local energy recovery facility.
It's a laudable effort, even if no one truly knows whether initiatives like this are really going to save the planet. It's a good start, though. And we'll raise an Oreo to that.