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Lessons Learned: A Journey through Solid Waste Reduction

By 3p Contributor

By Thomas Raymond

Solid waste sent to landfills can contribute to a variety of environmental concerns. That’s why our team at Hormel Foods is committed to reducing the company’s solid waste that is sent to landfills.

We surpassed our 2020 goal to reduce solid waste sent to landfills by 10 percent six years earlier than expected. And we continue to implement projects to achieve additional reductions. In 2015 alone, our operations reduced solid waste sent to landfills by 1,200 tons.

Teams of employees at our locations continuously identify opportunities and implement projects. For example, our team at Osceola Food (Osceola, Iowa) was able to reduce the plant’s solid waste sent to landfills by 78 tons last year. The team identified four main areas of focus, which included a comprehensive review of recyclable material, reducing non-recyclable cardboard waste, composting waste wood chips, and reusing totes.

Projects and achievements like those at our Osceola Food manufacturing facility remind me that with hard work and patience, we can implement small changes that add up to big results. As I reflect back on our sustainability journey, I’m proud of all we’ve achieved so far. As you can see in our 2015 Corporate Responsibility Report, our efforts have led to many milestones, both large and small.

The entire Hormel Foods team is comprised of thoughtful members who are attentive to detail and driven by a challenge. I’m thrilled about some of our projects in the works, and I think the future is going to hold accomplishments we could never have imagined. But I’ll be the first to say there’s much more to be done.

As I work on plans with my own team, I hope you’ll consider ways in which your organization, family and friends can help reduce solid waste. Throughout my career at Hormel Foods, I’ve learned some instrumental lessons that I hope you’ll find helpful in your own endeavors to reduce solid waste.

Not one for all, but all for one

Our locations all over the world have taken initiative and shared their ideas to help the company achieve our waste reduction goals. Every year we recognize these achievements through our Environmental Sustainability Best of the Best Awards. And every other year we hold a companywide environmental conference to discuss environmental compliance programs, sustainability initiatives and encourage knowledge-sharing among environmental representatives throughout the company.

When everyone is working together for the same overall goal, we’ve learned we can produce the most effective results.

Collaboration makes us smarter … and faster

Our employees come from diverse backgrounds, and everyone brings something valuable to the table. We collaborate with employees across all areas of the company to find the best ways to reduce waste. These unique perspectives have led to creative reduction methods, and have ultimately helped us achieve our waste reduction goal six years earlier than anticipated.

Embrace challenges instead of running away from them

Throughout our sustainability journey, we’ve tried new initiatives that haven’t always contributed to our goal the way we hoped. However, our teams capitalized on these challenges by using them as starting points for new ideas. Examining challenges, what adjustments could be made, and how pieces of the initial idea could transfer to new ideas has been monumental for many of our most successful waste reduction projects.

As you embark on your own sustainability journey and efforts, consider being bold in your decisions. Be mindful of your waste production, and work with others at your organization to brainstorm creative ways for not only reducing solid waste, but also for building a more sustainable environment. I truly think you’ll be captivated by the power of working together, and as a result, those around you will be hungry to make a difference too.

Thomas Raymond is the director of environmental sustainability at Hormel Foods where he oversees the development and implementation of the organization’s environmental sustainability programs.

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