MillerCoors’ eight major breweries are officially landfill free.
This status has been verified by NSF International, which verifies landfill-free programs for companies around the world. Companies earn this verification by demonstrating that no more than 1 percent of waste generated at a single site, including recycling vendors, goes to the landfill. They also have to document and implement waste management and sorting processes and actively train employees on these, as well as undergo routine audits to ensure compliance.
It’s a big challenge. MillerCoors started the process in 2009. Since then, it has reduced its waste across the organization by 89 percent, equal to keeping more than 9 million pounds of waste out of local landfills.
But achieving landfill-free operations at all of its major breweries is not the finish line for the company’s waste reduction efforts. By 2020, the brewer aims to achieve landfill-free operations at all its major manufacturing sites in the US.
In an interview with Environmental Leader, MillerCoors director of sustainability Kim Marotta said the key to becoming landfill free is employee engagement.
“In 2009 most of our breweries were recycling or reusing most of their waste — about 98 percent. We had set a goal that we wanted to reduce that remaining 2 percent by 15 percent,” she said. “In that time we had a gentleman in one brewery on packaging line, Kelly Harris, who was actively involved in the effort. He said, ‘not good enough. I think we can get zero waste to landfill.’ He put together a plan and presented it to our leadership team. Trenton said let’s try it out and within six months or less they had achieved zero waste.”
That was at MillerCoors Trenton, Ohio, Brewery — the company’s first landfill-free location as of 2009. Trenton’s best practices have provided the foundation for implementing landfill-free processes throughout MillerCoors other major breweries.
The first step is looking at the type of waste generated, Marotta said. “Bill Coors said, ‘waste is just a resource out of place,’ so how do we put it to beneficial reuse?”
Spent gains is a major waste stream generated during the brewing process, so the company began selling it to cattle farmers, which use it for animal feed. Another waste product — yeast — gets sold to pet food companies that use it in their products.
“Pallets are another one,” Marotta said. “We use these really big pallets to ship cases and kegs.” The company decided to switch its entire wood pallet inventory to plastic pallets, which are more durable and last longer than their wood counterparts. “And when they break down, our pallet provider Graystone Logistics grinds them down into pellets that can be reused in recycled plastic pallets.”