Garbage trucks no longer stop at the Cargill meat processing facility in Hazleton, Pa., because the 225,000-square-foot plant that sits on a 40-acre site, employs 600 people and produces more than 10 million pounds of beef, pork and ground meat products monthly, sends nothing to landfills. While NSF verifies that less than 1% of the plant's waste goes to landfills, Cargill's team at Hazleton has gone the remaining distance to completely eliminate all landfill waste. On March 29, 2015, Ann Arbor, Michigan-based NSF International verified the facility's landfill-free status after a detailed review of documentation and a three-day on-site audit, March 10-12, 2015.
Although some materials were already being recycled, in 2012 Cargill's Hazleton plant sent 1,500 tons of waste to local landfills, including plastic, bio-solids, paper and other materials. In mid-2013, employees at the facility began a stepped up recycling effort and within five months reduced the amount of waste materials going to landfills by 280 tons, while saving the company $30,000.
"Having successfully taken the first step, the Hazleton team decided to strive for something that had never been accomplished at Cargill, while pushing the envelope to better align with our global corporate focus on sustainable food production," explained Aaron Humes, the plant's general manager. "We weren't certain we could go all the way to landfill-free status, but we were confident that we could significantly improve our sustainability footprint. The team here swung for the fences and hit a grand slam home run. Everyone at Hazleton is proud to be part of this achievement."
The Hazleton team's goals were simply to help preserve the environment, engage all employees in the effort and strengthen relationships with customers. To kick off the effort, in 2013 the plant partnered with a local company that helped improve the facility's recycling program. Within five months, 20% less waste was going to landfills.
That success invigorated Cargill's Hazleton team and they set their sights higher for 2014 - becoming verified landfill free. In May 2014, they set the wheels in motion to achieve that goal. People and funds were allocated and partners found that could recycle plastic, bio-solids and other materials.
Approximately 1,000 tons of unrecyclable plastic is now used to produce energy and about 1,500 tons of food waste is rendered into other products. More than a ton of oil is repurposed for use as lubricants.
By early 2015, the Hazleton facility had found non-landfill homes for all of its waste, making it the first Cargill facility in the world to achieve verified landfill-free status. As an ongoing requirement for verification, the Hazleton facility will undergo annual reassessment audits.
"This planet is home to more than seven billion people, and it will need to sustain more than nine billion by 2050," stated John Keating, president of Cargill's beef and case ready meat products business. "Every day, we work to improve our environmental footprint while nourishing many millions of people with the best protein that the civilized world has ever known, as well as helping communities thrive as we do it."
The Cargill employees at Hazleton will celebrate the plant's landfill-free status on Earth Day, April 22, 2015.