Solid Waste at Stonyfield
People generally think of solid waste as trash—scraps from food we don’t eat, packaging for the many products we use, or things that are worn out or broken. But solid waste is not just trash. At Stonyfield Farm, we consider solid waste to be anything that we buy but don’t sell to our consumers—the things we throw away, recycle, or give to other people to use. Solid waste is money that we’ve thrown away. And what about all the energy, trash, emissions, and pollution that went into making this stuff in the first place?
In 2008, Stonyfield disposed of around 6.8 million pounds of materials and spent around $200,000 to get rid of it. But the environmental impact and the millions of dollars spent buying that stuff in the first place—ingredients, packaging, and supplies—far outweighs the cost and the environmental impact of throwing it away.
The pie chart on the right can give you a rough idea of what we threw away in 2008. Tracking the details of our solid-waste disposal helps us target areas we need to improve.
Rethink, reduce, reuse, recycle
Rethinking, reducing, reusing, and recycling are the basic principles for moving toward zero waste. Stonyfield applies all four, with an emphasis on rethinking and reduction.
If we can eliminate the need for a material altogether, we’d prevent any waste from being created, thereby saving all of the energy and resources that would have gone into making that product. Stonyfield has reworked many of its processes to eliminate waste. For example, in 2003, we got rid of the plastic lid on our small cups, thus eliminating the need for hundreds of tons of plastic annually, and a significant amount of energy and water.
Most of the waste created at Stonyfield is waste yogurt. We are maniacal about not sending out any product that does not meet our strict quality standards. But that creates waste yogurt here at our plant and so we’re focused on making our yogurt right the first time! That means more and better employee training, tight daily management of our operations, and good communications. By making the product right, we get more product out the door—and less in the dumpster! It means savings from fewer wasted ingredients and materials, and lower trash-hauling costs. From 2007 to 2008, our efforts paid off with savings of over $1.1 million!
Our Quality and Research & Development folks are continually testing our delicious yogurt to ensure only the best stuff reaches you and your family. All that sampling leaves leftovers (we can’t eat it all!). Our solution? We work with dozens of local farmers to give them leftover yogurt for their animals, and boy, do they love it!
And when the animals are full, we can also opt to send waste yogurt to our onsite anaerobic digester. The digester uses the yogurt waste to create biogas, which can then provide energy for our operations.
Photos courtesy of Currier Brook Farm (Wentworth, NH) & Birch Hill Farm
You can, too!
Check out our list of ways to reuse yogurt cups, and see if you can come
up with your own!
- Dog food scoop
- Desktop paper-clip holder
- Holder for loose nails
- Pen cup
- Quarts make a great leftovers container.
- Paint cups for the kids’ latest art project
- Seed-starter cups
- Craft projects
No matter how many cups we reuse for holding our pens, we seem to have a surplus (we just can’t stop eating this stuff!), especially since some of our dedicated yogurt lovers send in their clean cups for recycling. That’s where our recycling program kicks in, to handle the wastes that could not be reduced or reused.
Stonyfield Farm recycles many materials at our Yogurt Works plant as well as at our corporate office. Stonyfielders separate as much material as possible for recycling out on the Yogurt Works floor and in our warehouse, laboratories, and offices. These items include scrap cardboard, reusable boxes, plastics (#1, #2, #4, #5, and #6), paper, metal, wood, cans & bottles, lightbulbs, cellphones, electronics, batteries, and even leftover food. Preserve makes toothbrush and razor handles from some of our recycled plastics!
Since 1997, we’ve recycled around 29 million pounds and, as a result, saved nearly $2 million! In 2008, our recycling program saved us over $150,000 and diverted over 1,200 tons from the landfill. That’s 267 dumptruck loads of material!
You can, too! If there isn’t a recycling program in your community, you can send Stonyfield yogurt packaging back to us, and we’ll make sure it gets recycled.
Packaging Take Back Program
10 Burton Drive
Londonderry, NH 03053
You can also participate in Preserve’s Gimme 5 program with any #5 plastic.