In celebration of America Recycles Day, ConAgra Foods announced its annual Zero Waste Champion award winners today, recognizing 17 facilities that have reached a major environmental milestone: diverting more than 95 percent of solid waste from landfills through reuse and recycling. These facilities –representing nearly 75 percent of the company’s total waste generation – helped ConAgra Foods achieve a 91 percent waste diversion rate in fiscal year 2012.
“Our Zero Loss philosophy recognizes that we need to maximize the use of all of the resources that go into making our food and is founded on the premise that most ‘waste’ materials have value outside of landfills,” said Gail Tavill, vice president, Sustainable Development, ConAgra Foods. “Our focus is to systematically and strategically reduce wasted resources, ensuring that any materials that aren’t able to reach our consumers are managed for the next most beneficial use, be that donation to feed hungry people, recovering energy value, use for animal feed or making soil rich through composting.”
During the past year, ConAgra Foods has increasingly focused on preventing and rescuing food waste. “Keeping food out of landfills is critical to our waste reduction strategy going forward,” said Dr. Al Bolles, executive vice president, Research Quality & Innovation, ConAgra Foods. “Our teams are exploring new, creative ways to prevent food from becoming waste and making sure that food gets to the table and not a landfill.”
One example of such creative thinking is the partnership between ConAgra Foods and Forgotten Harvest, a Detroit-based Feeding America member. Earlier this year, the two organizations earned a Gold Award in the Green Category at the Edison Awards for their innovative approach to fighting hunger while eliminating food waste. By rescuing, repackaging and distributing unsalable products and ingredients from ConAgra Foods’ facilities, the partners have diverted more than 300,000 pounds of protein-rich food from going to waste. Instead, the food is made available to food-insecure individuals through Forgotten Harvest’s mobile pantry system. The program also reduces greenhouse gas emissions released during the process of food decomposition and preserves the value of the resources that go into making the food in the first place.
“We’re so proud of the facilities that have reached this major milestone in their journey to zero waste,” Tavill said. “Their commitment, imagination and relentless pursuit of eliminating waste is an inspiring demonstration of our zero waste ambition.”
ConAgra Foods’ 2012 Zero Waste Champion award winners include: American Falls, Idaho; Batesville, Ark.; Boardman, Ore.; Colton, Calif.; Connell, Wash.; Hamburg, Iowa; Helm, Calif.; Hermiston, Ore.; Lakeville, Minn.; Park Rapids, Minn.; Pasco, Wash. (two winners – Columbia Basin Blends and the Pasco plant); Paterson, Wash.; Quincy, Wash.; Richland, Wash.; Twin Falls, Idaho; and Warden, Wash.