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Greening factories at Kraft Foods and General Motors

July 7, 2010 |  6:01 am

New Ulm Mn Kim
Manufacturing facilities are usually paired with images of belching fumes and crowded trash chutes – anything but eco-friendly.

But factories around the country are attempting to scale back.

Kraft Foods Inc. said Wednesday that it has reduced net waste from its manufacturing plants by 30% since 2005. The company is now recycling or reusing 90% of production waste, it said.

Nine of its facilities – six in the U.S. – have managed to divert all of their waste from landfills. The company owns brands including Oreo cookies, Trident gum, Oscar Mayer meats and, after a January takeover bid, Cadbury chocolates.

At the Allentown factory in Pennsylvania, picking up trash is now just a weekly occurrence, compared to 328 times a year previously. The nearly 5 million pounds of mustard seed hulls that the plant trashed after making Grey Poupon mustard is now repurposed as animal feed.

Roughly 2.4 million pounds of cardboard, cores and paper were recycled in 2009 at Kraft’s facility in New Ulm, Minn.

Unilever’s Lipton Tea factory in Suffolk, Va. runs all of its waste through energy-conversion, recycling or composting programs, transforming organic leftovers into fertilizer and mulch and replacing single-use cleaning wipes with rags.

General Motors Co. said in May that 43% of all its it manufacturing facilities – 27 of them in North America – now completely avoid sending waste to landfills. More than 2 million tons of scrap metal, wood, cardboard, plastic and other materials will be recycled or reused in 2010, and another 45,000 tons will be converted to energy, the automaker said.

Toyota Motor Corp. and Subaru also operate so-called “zero landfill” factories.

-- Tiffany Hsu

Photo: An employee in front of cardboard at the Kraft plant at New Ulm, which reduced waste by 40% over the past four years. Credit: Kraft Foods