Conglomerate Kraft Foods Sets New Standard in Waste Reduction

As the largest packaged food company in America, Kraft Foods has put their trademark on everything from Cool Whip to Shake’N Bake to Nutter Butters.  Most recently though, Kraft has surprisingly marked itself as a pioneer in the reduction of manufacturing waste.  This $50 billion dollar conglomerate has slashed its waste stream by 30 percent (double their original estimate), recycles or reuses 90 percent of its waste and sends zero waste to landfills from 9 of its major facilities.

How’d They Do It? Kraft’s main challenge according to GreenBiz, was simply to  find other uses for their garbage.  In their Melbourne, Australia plant the company eliminated over 100 tons of filler and label waste by making its assembly line on their peanut butter more efficient.  In China, they determined that they could send excess sugar from its Tang plant to another facility that makes Halls cough drops.  Even here in the states, they sent over 5 million pounds of mustard seed hulls from its production of Grey Poupon to a local farm to be used as cow feed, hence diverting this from the landfills it usually ends up at. 

Recycling rates in the U.S. run at about 30 percent compared to other developed areas in the world which are close to 75%.  In 2008, Kraft develop strategic partnerships to help increase recycling rates in the states with organizations such as RecycleBank and TerraCycle, (a company that “upcycles” waste materials to create fashionable items such as backpacks or totebags made from Capri-Sun packaging).  Participants who send in their waste get as much as 2 cents per candy wrapper or drink pouch.

Kraft also established their Packaging Eco-Calculator to help develop efficient and optimized packaging and by 2008 Kraft had cut its packaging by 116 million pounds.

Marketing Gimmick or Whole-Hearted? As environmentally-conscious as Kraft seems to be, their committment to healthy food has been questioned by many organizations including the Sierra Club.  Currently, Kraft has shown little effort towards reducing their use of genetically modified ingredients.   Many consumers refuse to purchase from them due to their potential to expose consumers to new allergies.   Along with this, potentially hazardous pesticides are being used on american farms to support unlabeled GMOs.  On the other side of the planet Kraft has altogether stopped using genetically engineered ingredients in their European products due to public demand.

All of that being said, you have to applaud their recent commitment to sustainability and waste management.  Next time you have breakfast with that bagel and Philadelphia Cream Cheese, Maxwell cup of coffee and bowl of Grape Nuts (all Kraft-owned), think about the fact that Kraft is now diverting wasted whey materials into on-site digesters creating biogas to provide electricity for their plants’ needs–a true feat in itself.

Dale Wannen

Dale Wannen is President of Sustainvest Asset Management, an investment advisory firm focused on sustainable and responsible investing (SRI). Prior to Sustainvest, Dale was a portfolio manager at Harrington Investments and specialized in ESG investment strategies, securities analysis, and shareholder advocacy. Prior to this position, Dale was a financial advisor with UBS Wealth Management Services in San Francisco. He is often a guest speaker on the topic of ESG investing and shareholder advocacy.Dale has an MBA in Sustainable Management from Presidio Graduate School in San Francisco. He earned a B.A. in Economics from Rowan University and currently is a volunteer with Mentor Me Petaluma, Rebuilding Together Petaluma, and the founder of Green Drinks Petaluma.He also currently sits as Board of Director and Treasurer of San Francisco human rights organization, Global Exchange, teaches Economics for the Oakland non-profit Game Theory Academy and is a committee member for the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) in San Francisco. Previous volunteer work has included Treasurer and Board Member for bird conservation organization, San Francisco Bay Bird Observatory (SFBBO), committee member of the Petaluma Pedestrian and Bicycle Advisory Committee (PBAC), and President of the Social Venture Finance Club at Presidio Graduate School.Dale currently holds the Series 65 FINRA license and has previously held the Series 6, 7, 63, 66 and California Life and Health Insurance Certification. He is a member of National Association of Professional Financial Advisors (NAPFA) and the Financial Planning Association (FPA).Dale lives in Petaluma, CA with his wife Lauri and their Malamute Shadow.