In 2013, we diverted 99.9% of our waste from the landfill. However, there is still more to do. We are constantly looking at ways to close loops and, more importantly, to eliminate waste generated in the first place. After all, there is no waste in nature! In natural ecosystems, one creature’s waste is another’s food, and we really like this concept. We're working hard to divert, reuse or eliminate waste whenever we can. These practices help to minimize ecosystem damage from resource extraction and aid in preserving our ecosystems for future generations.
We are currently in the midst of a brewery-wide waste stream audit, with hopes to become a Zero Waste facility before too long. Stay tuned for more information, and don't hesitate to reach out to us to learn more!
Waste reduction and diversion successes
In years past, New Belgium’s waste diversion efforts primarily centered around collecting waste data with the goal of establishing a reliable baseline for our waste diversion rate. The creation of this baseline has helped to form realistic and measurable waste diversion goals to guide future efforts. Here are some highlighted successes we celebrated in 2011:
- Elimination of two trash dumpsters at both our process water treatment plant and malt building. These dumpsters were replaced with recycling containers for collecting super sacks, plastic and paper bags, and mylar packaging.
- The following items were new materials added to our recycling program:
- Plastic bags
- Super sacks
- Mylar bags
- Compact discs
- Compost (at our off-site warehouse)
- Additionally, systems were improved to collect more styrofoam and paper packaging from operations than in previous years.
- Purchased new stretch wrap and aluminum can balers that assisted in optimizing the collection of these waste streams.
Beyond waste diversion rates
New Belgium Brewing uses its waste diversion rate as the primary performance indicator to guide recycling/diversion efforts. A high diversion rate is seen as an indicator of success, while a low diversion rate assumes an inefficient recycling program. However, we have begun to wonder, if in focusing only on a waste diversion rate, are we overlooking opportunities for reducing overall waste?
Depending on a number of factors, diversion rates can vary considerably from year to year and can be significantly impacted by the weights of waste materials. For instance, heavier materials like scrap metal and compost can significantly affect a diversion rate. In addition, waste diversion rates are also insufficient in reporting waste reduction successes. Waste eliminated from diverted materials reduces the percentage of diverted material against landfilled materials (often resulting in a lower waste diversion rate). When comparing, 2010 to 2011’s diversion rates, New Belgium saw an overall reduction of office paper, aluminum and glass sent to recycling. This means New Belgium created less waste but made more products in the last year. Though this is an improvement in waste reduction, this attributed to the decrease in the waste diversion rate.
Another issue is that of outlying data. As mentioned above, heavy waste streams greatly impact a waste diversion rate. Scrap metal entered into New Belgium’s waste data in 2010. This first year of collecting metal data was unknowingly an unusual year as we had significantly high metal recycling numbers due to a large scale "bone yard" and construction clean up. These metal numbers positively influenced our diversion rate in 2010. However, the drop off of this material stream in 2011 negatively impacted the waste diversion rate. Another example of this would be the sporadic instances of recycling leftover POS (point of sale) materials from expired promotions, damaged product or cleanup projects. These instances can skew our waste diversion rate when compared to years past. This prompts asking if there would be value in capturing outlying data and reporting it separately. With these new findings in mind, our waste diversion specialist is researching if there are better and more meaningful ways to collect and report waste data and looking into new ways or system optimizations to eliminate and reduce our overall waste.