Kit Kat Factory Achieves Zero Waste Milestone

The legendary Kit Kat candy bar. Credit: Scott Ehardt via Wikipedia
The legendary Kit Kat candy bar. Credit: Scott Ehardt via Wikipedia

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.


Leon Kaye is a business writer and consultant, Editor and Founder of and contributes to The Guardian Sustainable Business; you can follow him on Twitter.

Based in Fresno, California, Leon Kaye has written for TriplePundit since 2010. He has lived across the U.S., as well as in South Korea, Abu Dhabi and Uruguay. Some of Leon's work can also be found in The Guardian, Sustainable Brands and CleanTechnica. You can follow him on Twitter (@LeonKaye) and Instagram (GreenGoPost).

4 responses

  1. Great moves, but refusing to do anything about the unsustainably produced palm oil they use is pure negligence and, in my eyes, shows a high degree of greenwashing. They have the resources to make the change and I encourage them and all consumers to demand that they address their role in this destructive industry. Stand up for what is right Nestle’!

  2. Good points. Keep in mind a couple things:
    1) Incineration is only a small part of the zero waste process and only materials that cannot be recycled/repurposed are incinerated. Get bogged down in semantics all you want but if incineration is for electricity, there’s an argument for using some trash for that instead of hauling it to a landfill.
    2) Nestle has been nailed for palm oil and is responding in time. When you work with a large supply chain, you’d realize that change will not occur overnight. Screaming “greenwashing” is not a way to engage companies, if anything, all it does is discourage them. Plus, this article was not focused on palm oil, but on their waste efforts. Let’s stick to the point.

  3. Yes, we shouldn’t get bogged down in semantics. Nor should we burn waste and create pollution while enabling the design and manufacture of poorly deigned products that cannot be reused, recycled, or composted.

    Nestlé is rightly applauded for their true zero waste efforts and they and others are rightly reminded that waste disposal methods that create pollution and destroy resources are not sustainable and hurt people and the planet.

Leave a Reply