Fonterra forges ahead to meet sustainability goal

by Keith Nunes
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AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND — The subject of sustainability has taken hold throughout the dairy industry’s farm-to-table production and supply chain. On the heels of the U.S. dairy sustainability summit, held in June, Fonterra announced its New Zealand manufacturing facilities and offices have recycled more than 5,000 tonnes of plastic, cardboard and paper, and cut total waste by 20% over the past year.

The dairy processor’s Eco-efficiency Programme manager, Spring Humphreys, said the savings bring Fonterra’s total reduction in waste sent to landfill over the past five years to 84%. He said the savings, achieved through the Eco-efficiency Programme in 2007/08, equate to more than 85,000 trees, or about 2,700 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

Mr. Humphreys said recycling was an important part of the program, but the focus was also on reducing the amount of waste across all of the company’s operations and offices.

"On top of the 5,274 tonnes of recycling this year, a good chunk of our 20% reduction in waste came from reprocessing dairy products into stock food and reusing many of our wooden pallets," he said.

Fonterra’s Eco-efficiency Programme was established in 2003 and has a goal of reducing 90% of waste sent to landfill by 2009. To date, around 84% of waste sent to landfill has been eliminated.

"It’s driven throughout the company, but at a site level our staff are responsible for finding new ways to recycle waste, reuse non-recyclable materials and change the way we do things to reduce our waste altogether," he said.

Examples of recent waste reduction initiatives adopted by Fonterra include:

• Introducing a new milk sample container that uses a reusable electronic chip rather than a plastic label for tagging samples. The effort has reduced more than 100 tonnes of plastic every year.

• Cheese cartons have been replaced by a vacuumed-sealed bag, which enables 7,500 bags to be packed on a pallet rather than 5,000 cartons. The program has resulted in transport and logistical efficiencies, quality control and cost savings.

• New systems have reduced Fonterra’s milk docket printing requirements by 22 reams of paper a day.

This article can also be found in the digital edition of Dairy Business News, August 19, 2008, starting on Page 4. Click here to search that archive.

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