Kraft Foods cuts global manufacturing waste by half

Kraft Foods has undertaken a huge recycling programme across all of its global operations, reducing manufacturing waste by 50% since 2005 with 36 of its facilities now sending zero waste to landfill.

The manufacturer’s approach is to “wage war on waste, one plant at a time” according to its vice president of global sustainability, Christine McGrath. “Our strategy is simple – generate less waste and find new uses for the waste we do produce. And our employees are doing just that,” she said.

Engaging staff is central to the company’s corporate sustainability strategy. Employees are encouraged to find new ways to improve efficiency by changing their behaviour, business practices and culture. This includes partnership working to extract more value from waste.

As manufacturing accounts for the vast majority of the company’s solid waste output, its plants are a natural place to take action. In 2007, Kraft launched a programme with recycling firm Sonoco Recycling, to substantially reduce waste across of its facilities.

As a result, around 90% of manufacturing waste is being recovered with many by-products being turned into sources of renewable energy.

In Austria, Kraft’s Vienna coffee plant is sending its used coffee bean husks – chaff – to a biomass power plant, while out in the US, three of its California facilities are diverting food waste such as corn skins for use in animal feed.

The company has also partnered with Beaver Dam city in the US state of Wisconsin where it operates its Philadelphia-branded cream cheese plant to build an anaerobic digestor that is turning whey waste into biogas for the local power grid. This is not only reducing solid waste, but improving wastewater quality for the city.

Meanwhile in China, the company’s Shanghai plant has replaced many of its inbound shipping containers with reusable cartons, reducing the amount of carton waste by 25% and enabling 90% of containers to be reused.

Of the 36 plants that have reached zero waste status, 24 of these are in Europe and 12 are in North America. Kraft Foods markets its branded products such as Cadbury, Jacobs and Maxwell House across 170 countries and in 2010, generated a revenue of $49.2bn.

Maxine Perella

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