2012 IGD Food Industry Awards Finalist
Arla Foods UK plc is one of the biggest dairy companies in the UK. Home to leading brands Cravendale, Lurpak and Anchor, it processes approximately two billion litres of milk every year.
We employed, in 2011, 2,700 people across eight sites in the UK including five dairies, two creameries plus our Head Office and National Distribution Centre.
For the past six years we have set ourselves the goal of being the country’s most natural dairy company with a stringent set of environmental targets to meet. At the top of our list was reducing the 3333 tonnes of waste we were sending to landfill every year in 2005 to zero by 2012 through an all-encompassing programme of recycling and recovery.
Thanks to a truly impressive effort by our team across all our sites we sent zero waste to landfill at the end of 2011 – a full year ahead of our own goal and four years ahead of the Dairy Roadmap target.
How the issue was tackled
The initiative could not have been implemented without the full support and engagement by our entire team across every UK site. Each site looked at its operations to see where recycling could be introduced with specialist recycling companies brought in to take care of certain plastic products.
At the heart of our approach was a Waste Hierarchy which refers to the four R’s of reduce, reuse, recycle and recover.
Colleagues at each site found new ways to recycle materials – by using recycled cardboard in packaging, reducing the weight of plastic milk cartons or changing materials such as using polypropylene in cream pots instead of polystyrene which is more difficult to recycle.
The first site to divert all its waste from landfill was Settle, followed by Ashby, Oakthorpe, Hatfield Peverel, Lockerbie, Stourton, Arla House Head Office and the National Distribution Centre, which sends all food waste to a biogas company. At each site, raising awareness of recycling and emphasising how it could also reduce costs were vital to the initiative.
We succeeded in completely eliminating the amount of waste going to landfill from our entire operation in November 2011. Over 90 per cent of site waste is recycled and the remainder is either recovered or processed into high grade refuse derived fuel (RDF) – a pulverised waste that can be used to produce energy.
Benefits and impacts
The impact of our initiative is of direct benefit to the environment. More than this, achieving our goal a year early has been a huge boost to morale as reflected in our Barometer survey of colleague engagement which shows that 89 per cent are willing to give the extra effort to help their unit meet its objectives – up from 86 per cent in 2010.
The achievement also sets an outstanding example for the industry and shows what can be attained by colleagues working together guided by strong leadership.
Taking 2005 as our baseline year, our other environmental achievements as part of our Closer to Nature ambition include:
- Almost 15 per cent reduction on all CO2 emissions since 2005
- 19.7 per cent cut in greenhouse gas emissions at our dairies
- 12 per cent improvement in miles per gallon fuel consumption by our LGVs
- 4.1 per cent reduction in water consumption
- 15 per cent recycled plastic incorporated in our fresh milk bottles
Those who have benefited from the initiative range from our suppliers to consumers and wider society because of the overwhelming advantages of reducing waste going to landfill.
Advice to others
Looking back at the zero waste project, there are perhaps one or two areas where it could have been done differently which may have made the objective easier to achieve.
Each site was responsible for how they reduced their waste. This involved the purchase of infrastructure and equipment at many sites including compactors or cardboard balers. With the benefit of hindsight, it may have been more efficient in some circumstances to purchase equipment or install infrastructure at a central level so we could have attained economies of scale.
Colleague motivation was high throughout the initiative and continues to be so as we maintain our zero waste to landfill record and seek to fulfil our other environmental commitments. Generating and sustaining that motivation was not an easy undertaking and, again with hindsight, perhaps including more incentives for colleagues could have helped. One suggestion could be to have environmental targets included in Personal Development Plans so it is linked to annual appraisals.