Environmental efforts see less to landfills
29 August 2006
Fonterra’s environmental efforts see significant reduction in landfill volumes
You would expect clothing made from used butter wrap to be reserved for a wearable arts competition, yet an overseas market for this by-product of the Fonterra manufacturing process is seeing the material exported for use in the production of polypropylene garments and carpet.
The initiative is part of a New Zealand-wide drive by Fonterra Group Manufacturing to reduce waste to landfill by 90 per cent by June 2010. And the programme is well on track with the quantity of waste deposited in landfill over the past two and a half years already cut by 60 per cent.
Since January 2004, average monthly landfill waste recorded at Fonterra’s Kauri, Whareroa and Clandeboye manufacturing sites has reduced by around two thirds and Spring Humphreys, the company’s Eco-Efficiency Manager, expects this trend to be consistent across all of Fonterra’s New Zealand manufacturing operations.
The sites started out working to reduce their use of paper and plastic materials, bringing in smaller quantities of these products and implementing measures which cut back on waste. Recycling stations on site have reduced the volume of waste to landfill and the installation of balers, which compact recyclable materials, has meant a reduction in transportation costs.
“Recent changes to recording practices now mean that we are able to track the progress being made by our New Zealand sites, stores and offices towards achieving a target of a 90 per cent reduction in the volume of waste to landfill produced by our manufacturing business,” Mr Humphreys says.
“Previously, efforts to identify actual weights of waste to landfill were hampered by the recording systems employed by waste companies, which recorded waste by volume and, as a result, would count one bin as three cubic metre’s worth of waste, whether they were empty or full.”
Mr Humphreys says reducing the number of waste contractors employed by the company has also improved environmental practices across the company. “Our contractors are working with us to achieve four key objectives: reduce waste to landfill, maximise recyclables, maximise transport efficiency, and provide us with bins and equipment that are compliant with health and safety regulations”
One of the contractors, Envirowaste, has also located an overseas market for used plastics such as old cheese and milk powder bags and butter wrap. The materials are shipped to China where they are used in the production of polypropylene products such as clothing and carpet.
Initially, Fonterra’s waste-reducing initiatives formed part of a larger eco-efficiency project. However, Mr Humphreys says that the drive has now moved well beyond project phase.
“These waste management initiatives are part of Fonterra’s drive to ensure best practice is maintained across all areas of the company’s operations. We want to be a leader in the field of eco-efficiency.”
Receiving the Environmental Impact Award from the Auckland Regional Council last year is confirmation of the success of Fonterra’s efforts. The award was just one of an increasingly long list of accolades that the company’s eco-efficiency programme has received to date.
Fonterra’s know-how and experience has also been sought after by other large New Zealand manufacturing companies interested in improving their own eco-efficiency practices.
“We are always looking for ways to do things better, cut costs and ultimately help do our bit for the environment. Thanks to the dedication and commitment of Fonterra employees, reducing waste is now part of what we do every day.”