How Kraft Foods pursues sustainability

by Dan Malovany
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lime energy Andrew Tybus is associate principal engineer at Kraft Foods, Northfield, IL. He works in the greater New York City area in the Snacks and Confectionery Business Unit, with responsibility for sustainability for the snacks including biscuits, bars and nuts. While his main focus has been sustainable packaging, he also is looking at product and process for opportunities for improvement. In this exclusive interview with Baking & Snack, Mr. Tybus provided some insight into his success and challenges in sustainability.

Baking & Snack: Of the six main areas of commodities, packaging, energy, water, waste and transportation, in which have you had the greatest success in achieving your sustainability objectives and why were you so successful?

Andrew Tybus: When talking about what we can influence within our manufacturing plants, the two areas where we have had our greatest success are in packaging and waste reduction.

In both of these areas, we’ve achieved cost savings, which is always a very powerful driver. By using our ingredients and packaging material more prudently, we saved money that helped drive other parts of the business. Also, finding the right partners, such as Sonoco’s S3 division to help find uses and takers for plant scrap materials, has been critical to our continued success.

Sonoco showed us how to better sort, quantify and analyze our waste streams and byproducts, which then enabled greater recycling and repurposing of those wastes. In all cases, it starts with measuring whatever stream or system you want to better control. Without accurate metrics, it is difficult to justify investments or to demonstrate improvements.

Today, around the world, we have 26 plants in nine countries that have hit zero waste-to-landfill status. Our strategy has been simple: Generate less waste and find new uses for the waste we do produce. We know that solid waste generated from manufacturing accounts for more than 99% of our total waste. So we’re able to recycle or reuse about 90% of our manufacturing waste. And in some cases, we’re using manufacturing byproducts as energy sources.

And we’ve done quite well in several other areas too. For the legacy Kraft Foods business, since 2005:

  • Incoming water is down 30%
  • Net waste is down 42%
  • Packaging is down 100,000 tonnes (200 million lbs)
  • 96 million km (60 million miles) have been removed from our transportation and distribution network.

Which of the six areas has been the most challenging to meet your objectives and why?

Energy- and manufacturing-related CO2 have been the two toughest areas. But we’re making steady progress. Globally, energy use is down 16% since 2005, and CO2 emissions are down 18% in that same time period, for the legacy Kraft Foods business. These two metrics are very closely tied together. Although it may be a blessing when in decline, natural gas price fluctuations have made return on investment (ROI) difficult to predict.

Also, there are lots of variables to take into account when figuring out how to get the best savings that make the most sense for the business. It’s a combination of assessing the age of our infrastructure, the size of our bakery network, and varying product mix/volume — all this adds to the challenge.

For more from Mr. Tybus, look for the October 2011 issue of Baking & Snack, coming soon.

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