The year before the Accord was signed, New Zealand’s dairy giant Fonterra (the world’s biggest dairy exporter with around 11,000 employees in New Zealand and another 8000 around the world) made its own major move to reduce the environmental impact of packaging. The goal of the Fonterra Eco-Efficiency Programme is to create an organisational culture that promotes waste minimisation.
Since its inception, the Eco-Efficiency Programme has brought about specific policies and practices aimed at minimising both the amount of waste generated, and the amount sent to landfill.
The company says that a key part of the programme, and for achieving the targets laid out by the Packaging Accord, has been in establishing partnerships between a wide range of stakeholders, from manufacturing suppliers and waste companies to Fonterra staff.
When it was launched in 2003 as a pilot scheme, the programme was introduced at just five of Fonterra’s sites. Today, it is being implemented at 41 sites, stores and offices around the country.
Spring Humphreys, the company’s Eco-Efficiency manager says that it is an ongoing process, with more sites regularly being added to the list. And he says that the impact of the programme has been enormous, reducing waste to landfill to less than a third of its former level, while dramatically cutting costs.
Humphreys has become famous around Fonterra for his catchphrase “Do the right thing”, and he strongly believes in it. That is, do the right thing for its own sake, not because of outside pressures.
One of the keys for the company’s Eco-Efficiency teams has been focusing on where waste comes from, in order to reduce the amount of waste created. Effective collection systems, and the effective use of relationships with waste management and recycling providers are at the leading edge of this process.
“The crux of the programme is in looking at how to reduce waste in the first place,” Humphreys says. “Each site needs to look at how they process things, packaging-wise.”
The first step for each site that comes on board with the Eco-Efficiency Programme is an audit that looks closely at waste streams, who handles what, and how else it can be handled. And Fonterra views this as more than just its own project.
Rather than the traditional separation of responsibilities between waste services providers and their clients, and the belief that this area is an extra cost, Fonterra has taken a new view of this area, with its approach based around a partnership which benefits both parties.
One of the strongest partnerships that has been built from the programme is with Fullcircle, a Carter Holt Harvey-owned company which focuses on recycling.
“When the Eco-Efficiency Programme began, Fonterra had limited relationships with recyclers,” Humphreys says.
“We needed to build a national relationship, rather than having a whole lot of different players dealing with different sites. We looked around and found that Fullcircle were a part of Carter Holt Harvey who already supply bags to Fonterra, so now they can collect them as well.
“It’s a win-win situation. It means more paper and cardboard capture for them, and we’re now getting paid for our waste.”
As the Eco-Efficiency Programme has gathered steam, it has become increasingly successful. Fonterra has taken a structured approach, with formal monthly meetings held between team members and monthly reporting produced, profiling costs, volumes/weights and any non-conformances that have occurred during that period.
At Clandeboye, one of the large Fonterra sites, the waste tonnage has dropped from approximately 70 tonnes to 20 tonnes per month, with a reduction of 71 per cent in residual waste disposed of to landfill.
The impact of the programme has not just been noticed inside Fonterra. In April this year, the company won the first Zero Waste National Partnership Award presented at the International Zero Waste Conference, held in Kaikoura.
Fonterra Clandeboye Process Projects manager Rob McCoid said Fonterra’s Eco-Efficiency Programme placed considerable emphasis on waste minimisation across the company’s entire operation, hence Fonterra’s partnership with Fullcircle. Fullcircle’s recycling services
have a particular focus on
Part way through last year, Fonterra Clandeboye called for proposals from waste service providers that focused on waste minimisation and in November began trialling an EnviroWaste recycling programme. Results were so good, that in January this year the two companies formalised the partnership.
“Knowing where waste comes from is the key to reducing the amount of waste created,” McCoid says. “Working closely with EnviroWaste has given us access to that information. Once people are aware of the recoverable waste they are chucking out, they can start really thinking of ways to reduce the amount of waste created in their part of the business.”
Reporting is thorough, showing the amount of skips collected each week, as well as the volume. The amount of cardboard and plastic baled is reported on, as are all other waste streams, such as broken pallets or scrap metal, to give an accurate indication of the amount of waste and the type of waste being collected.
The company has introduced new equipment, as well as new processes, to assist in its push to achieve its stringent targets. The air-operated Mil-tek baling units which bale cardboard, paper and plastic are able to be moved around by forklift to wherever they are most needed.
More than 1000 tonnes of cardboard and paper that had previously been going to waste has been recycled by Fonterra over the past year. Around 400 tonnes of plastic has been collected for recycling and a similar amount has been baled for landfilling.
Since one of the major parts of recycling is transport, the cost savings achieved by baling have been significant, Humphreys says.
Companies looking to supply to Fonterra are now being challenged to ensure they meet the key aims of
the Eco-Efficiency Programme. Questions in Fonterra’s Request For Proposal process now address specific areas such as vendors’ environmental policies, types of packaging material used, re-use, recyclability and disposal.
“We’re working closer with our partners. Whenever anything goes out for tender, we look at the possibilities for re-using and recycling and how we can work together to make sure that we’re doing the right thing.”
Fonterra sent a survey to its 200 top suppliers last year looking for their responses to a range of questions on environmental issues. “The answers ranged from yes/no-type responses to some suppliers who provided us with booklets detailing their policies,” Humphreys says. “On the basis of the survey, some suppliers were cut, while some others are looking at how better to service us.
“We have even seen suppliers implement some of our practices.”
It’s all part of an overall strategy for Fonterra to be putting its money where its mouth is.
“It’s all about doing the right thing. Ensuring responsibility in the way we spend money, on sustainability, environmental and social factors, things like donating to organisations, planting trees. That kind of thing will be increasing.”
Humphreys is quick to point out that Fonterra’s approach to its Eco-Efficiency Programme was not dictated by the Packaging Accord but rather by Fonterra’s own environmental policy. “We got in before it became essential,” he says.
Nevertheless, the Packaging Accord will have a significant effect on the company and, more specifically, on its packaging suppliers.
“The Packaging Accord will have influence across all sectors in New Zealand,” says Humphreys. “Fonterra purchases across all those sectors. And we’re looking to ensure that all our suppliers are as committed to doing the right thing as we are.”