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Sonoco Shoots to Make Plants 99% Landfill-Free

Packaging company Sonoco has announced a goal of moving five U.S. manufacturing plants to virtually landfill-free status this year.

Sonoco is aiming to divert 99 percent of operational waste from landfills with programs in progress at five plants, in the company’s packaging services, consumer packaging, and tubes and cores operations.

In addition, Sonoco has established a goal of having 10 percent of its global manufacturing operations achieve landfill-free status by 2015. The company has about 3,000 plants worldwide.

“As one of the largest packaging recyclers in North America, we have established programs through our Sonoco Sustainability Solutions LLC service that are eliminating landfill wastes at our customers’ manufacturing plants and have moved ten plants to landfill-free status,” said chairman and chief executive officer Harris DeLoach Jr. “While we have always worked to reduce landfill wastes from our own plants, we are now focused on taking the next step in moving our operations to landfill-free status where possible.”

Sonoco’s Winston-Salem, N.C., corrugated point-of-purchase display manufacturing facility is the company’s first plant to move to landfill-free status, according to David Holcomb, director of manufacturing, Sonoco-Corrflex.

The plant is equipped with corrugators and converting equipment, including die cutters, printing presses, folding and gluing lines, and its waste stream included corrugated materials, plastic films, wraps, bands, ink containers, cutting dies, batteries and standard facility recyclables.

Beginning in 2008, the plant’s employees formed a “Green Team” that was initially focused on reducing the plant’s landfill wastes by 50 percent over 18 months. Within that time frame, they were able to reduce wastes by 65 percent and currently are achieving a less than 1 percent waste-to-landfill ratio, the company said.

The Winston-Salem plant was honored with a 2010 North Carolina Triad Green Award for its waste reduction improvement.

“The most important lesson learned was to never accept ‘it can’t be done’ as an answer,” said Holcomb. “A case in point was cutting dies (used to perforate displays from sheets of corrugating paper). Historically, there was no outlet for diverting dies from landfills. However, through the work of our team and suggestions from a customer, we have now sent some 65,000 pounds of dies to a waste to energy facility.”

In November, a host of Sonoco’s clients reported significant savings in materials resources as well as cuts in carbon emissions and energy use and improved recyclability.

The companies, including HP, Unilever, Kraft Foods and PJ’s Coffee, put the savings down to Sonoco’s sustainable packaging design software and recycling services.

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