The Kit Kat candy bar has been described as the “biggest little meal” and the “best companion to a cup of tea.” For decades, Nestlé, which manufactures Kit Kats in the UK and licenses the bar to Hershey in the U.S., reminded Brits and Americans to “Have a break, have a Kit Kat,” and so millions have obliged and wolfed down billions of the candy bars. Well, chocolate junkies who call zero waste their cup of tea will be pleased to learn that the world’s largest confectionary plant is now a zero-waste operation.
In the United Kingdom town of York, the Nestlé plant that churns out over a billion Kit Kats and 183 million guilt-inducing Aero bars annually has achieved a zero waste milestone four years early. For a company and brand that received sharp criticism last year for procuring controversial sources of palm oil last year, Nestlé and Kit Kat’s waste diversion efforts are more steps in the right direction.
For Nestlé, the zero waste initiative results in cost savings of GDP 120,000 (almost US$200,000) due to the elimination of local landfill fees. Use of skip lifts (containers used to collect and sort trash) dropped sharply by 70 percent. Finally, Nestlé actually generated revenues from the 800,000 tons of recyclable materials including cardboard, plastic, metals, and pallets. At other UK factories that already met the zero waste goal, waste wood is crushed, chipped, and sold to a local firm that uses the material to manufacture kitchen counters. Food waste is processed into animal feed and sold within 50 miles of one the factory in the Scottish town of Girvan. Other waste that cannot be recycled is incinerated locally to generate electricity. Local waste management companies manage the factory’s waste diversion programs, and a spokesperson noted that the vendor’s employees have become embedded within the factory’s operations.
The success at York is just one part of Nestlé’s sustainability efforts. All 14 of the companies factories in the UK and Ireland should achieve zero waste operations by 2015, and meanwhile, Nestlé’s water consumption in both countries has fallen by 36 percent
Expect to see Nestlé’s efforts replicated by even more companies. As raw materials increase in price, energy prices spike, and consumers become more aware of their favorite products’ impact–even as something as innocuous as a small candy bar. Expect more companies to realize that reducing waste, saving costs, and benefiting the environment is a smart business decision, not just a feel-good proposition.