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General Mills Reduces Solid Waste, Diverts 84% from Landfills

General Mills reduced solid waste generated by about 17,000 metric tons in 2012, according to its 2013 Global Responsibility Report. The company also diverted approximately 84 percent of waste from landfills.

The company has a goal of reducing by 50% its solid waste generation from its 2005 levels by 2015. By the end of 2012, General Mills had reduced waste sent to landfills by 40% from 2005 levels, up from its 35% reduction in 2011.

During 2012, the company diverted approximately 84 percent of waste from landfills. It generated 159,000 metric tons of solid waste in its wholly owned production facilities in 2012, 10.7% less than in 2011. Its waste generation rate was 0.034 metric tons per metric ton of product, which is a decrease of 7.6%, on target to achieve a goal of a 50% reduction by 2015 (compared to 2005), the company says.

General Mills points out that food waste creates five times more methane in landfills than packaging waste – and methane is a greenhouse gas 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Efficiencies in production play a role in reducing solid waste, as does the processing of food, which extends shelf life, and the packaging of food in quantities that match consumption to reduce waste.

General Mills also works to reduce the environmental impact of its packaging. The company says it exceeded its 2015 packaging improvement goal in 2012 and has reset its 2015 goal to reflect that performance. For example, the General Mills Yoplait fridge pack was altered: the weight of the Yoplait cup and the paperboard carton was reduced, the paperboard carton was converted from virgin to recycled paper, and the carton was given a printed label that indicated the recyclability of each packaging component.

Water recycling is another goal at General Mills. The company is reducing water used at its production facilities in Vineland, New Jersey, and Cedar Rapids, Iowa. In both cases, the company is reusing water for cooling and cleaning during the production process. At its soup facility in Vineland, the reuse of water saves 190,000 cubic meters of water per year – a 14 percent annual reduction in the plant’s water usage. Between the reduction in water use and energy savings, the new approach has led to an estimated $600,000 in combined annual savings.

At the cereal facility in Cedar Rapids, a filtration system installed in 2012 has reduced water usage by 190,000 cubic meters per year. Previously, water was used only once; the new system recirculates up to 75 percent of the water. As a result, the team predicts that water usage will decrease by nearly 40 percent, equal to about 2 percent of General Mills’ entire global water use. The system also will save $220,000 annually in water and sewer costs.
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