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Rich’s Fort Erie Plant Sets Bar as Company’s First Zero Waste-to-Landfill Facility

It’s often said that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure.”  In Canada, Rich’s Fort Erie, Ontario, plant has taken the notion quite seriously.  Lately, the associates there have been diverting virtually all of the facility’s production waste away from landfills and into a booming recycling program, while also identifying opportunities to turn trash into cash.

“The Fort Erie plant has become the first Rich’s operation to be recognized as a ‘Zero Waste-to-Landfill Facility,’” Mario Stranges, the Continuous Improvement Manager for Rich Products of Canada, proudly stated.  “Official certification requires that at least 95 percent of all waste generated be diverted away from landfills.”

Thanks to its current recycling blitz, the Fort Erie facility is now successfully diverting 98 percent of its waste away from landfills, according to a recent study.

“During the past three years, Rich’s has made significant progress in energy efficiency and water conservation,” said Deb Gondek, Director of Sustainability, Rich Products Corporation.  “Waste reduction is another opportunity to reduce our company’s environmental footprint, and our Fort Erie plant has shown incredible leadership in this area.”

The results of a regulatory waste audit not long ago stirred Rich’s Fort Erie plant into waste-diversion overdrive.  The audit, conducted by Guelph Food Technology Centre (GFTC), a global food and beverage industry consultant, concluded the Canadian plant generated nearly 230 tons of landfill waste in 2010.  The report indicated that paper bags made up 34 percent of the landfill waste and plastic items accounted for another 25 percent.

“When we saw how much production waste we were creating, we sought a partner who could reuse or recycle it, rather than having it disposed,” said Stranges.  In July 2011, Fort Erie teamed up with Waste Management Inc., North America’s leading provider of integrated environmental solutions, to tackle the waste challenge head-on.

The move to large-scale recycling was relatively simple to implement, using Waste Management’s “Single Stream Waste Management Collection” program.

“One of the biggest drawbacks to recycling is the time spent sorting materials,” Stranges explained.  “With the Single Stream program, we don’t do any sorting at the plant.  All recyclable materials go into one container, which is removed by Waste Management and sorted at its facility.”

Raw materials packaging, by far the plant’s biggest source of waste, is now easily recycled.  In the past, the paper bags and cardboard boxes that held raw materials like sugar and salt, and even the plastic wrapping around the boxes, ended up in landfills.

Fort Erie also began generating revenue from some of its waste, selling used steel barrels as scrap and finding a buyer for its single-use pallets.  “All of these small changes add up to big environmental and bottom-line impacts,” Stranges noted.  “By taking a holistic approach to our waste management efforts, we’re able to substantially decrease our footprint.”

According to the most-recent GFTC study, the Fort Erie facility is now diverting 98 percent of its waste away from landfills – a staggering 90-percent decrease in the amount of its waste going to the trash heap.

“Green manufacturing initiatives like this waste diversion program not only drive cost savings, but also help the environment,” stressed Scott VeRost, Fort Erie Plant Manager.  “Doing what’s right for the environment ties in perfectly to the Rich Promise.”

The Rich Promise is the company’s pledge to treat its customers, its associates and its communities the same way:  like family.

On Aug. 9, 2012, Gondek and Fort Erie Mayor Doug Martin joined project team members from Rich’s and Waste Management to celebrate the environmental achievement.  The occasion on the Fort Erie plant campus was marked with the raising of a “Zero Waste-to-Landfill” flag designed by a Rich’s associate.

“Rich’s recycling efforts have helped us become more sustainable,” Martin said.  “When you see the impact on our landfills of just one company, you can see how much longer we could use our resources if everyone followed.”

“Fort Erie has shown great leadership in waste diversion and this successful project will inspire other plants to explore what can be done,” offered Gondek.  “We can all change something in our daily operations, so our natural resources will be used more effectively.  A collective effort really makes a difference.”

“Rich’s strives to be an environmental steward in the communities where we manufacture our products,” said Rich’s Director of Energy & Water Management Todd M. Musterait.  “We continually seek opportunities to do what’s good for business and good for the environment.  The tremendous waste diversion accomplishment by the Fort Erie plant was truly a team effort.”