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Green Business Network

Hain Celestial - waste warriors

In just one year, Luton-based sandwich suppliers Hain Celestial has performed a minor miracle in relation to their waste disposal. The company has gone from recycling just 9% of its waste to 90%.

Hain produces between 80,000 and 120,000 sandwiches a day, seven days a week (equivalent to 124 million sandwiches a year) for one of the UK’s most prestigious and exacting chain stores. Its major environmental impact was waste – the company was sending 172 tonnes of waste to landfill every month.

In July 2006 Hain only recycled cardboard waste, representing a paltry 9% of its total waste production. This was not only environmentally damaging, but also extremely costly.

Hain decided to meet the challenge head-on by joining GBN’s Resource Efficiency Club, and calling in help from Envirowise and The Carbon Trust. A target of 85% reduction in waste going to landfill by the end of 2007 was set, with a three-phase programme approach. And then the hard work began.

To get the ball rolling, Maureen Raphael, Hain’s environmental manager, sent out briefs to all managers and was very pleasantly surprised by the reception she received. “Their response was unexpected,” she says. “I thought they might be resistant to change, but they’ve been absolutely fantastic – very positive and passionate about the project.”

Working with waste contractors Cawleys, also a GBN member, waste streams were identified and approximate weights established, which included food, plastic buckets, plastic, tin, and office waste.

In December 2006 the first waste stream – 20 tonnes of food waste per week - was segregated from the rest and transferred to Biogen, a biogas plant based in Bedfordshire. The company operates a plant that uses an anaerobic digestion process that is not only a waste processing solution, but also prevents pollution, creating both renewable electricity and an odourless organic fertiliser.

This process reduced Hain’s waste to landfill enough to drop compactor lifts from 5 to 1 per week.

Following on from this the other waste streams were segregated and baled for recycling, which was collected once per week.

By May 2007 Hain had reduced its landfill waste to such an extent that it decided to remove its compactor from site and replace it with a much smaller open skip to better establish what other waste was being sent to landfill.

In June 2007, the site achieved 85.5% recycling of its waste, six months ahead of schedule.

And what does the future hold for Hain? Maureen estimates that as much as 95% of Hain’s waste could be recycled with more planning and changes in work practices. Phase 3 of the company’s plan is even more ambitious and challenging, including:

“The new challenge now is to reduce the waste we generate in the first place. We will be negotiating with suppliers to try to ensure our customer specifications are more consistently met, and we’re also looking for someone who would be prepared to take the raw materials and use them.”

Most of Hain’s waste is generated because food supplied doesn’t meet the stringent requirements of its customer, not because it is spoiled or out of date.

Other projects are also being taken on throughout the business, such as cutting energy and water use, and these will come more to the fore as the waste issues diminish.

And Maureen’s final word on being involved with the GBN Resource Efficiency Club? “We’ve really benefited from being members of the GBN resource efficiency project – if you don’t know the answer to something, there’s always someone around who’s already done what you’re doing that you can turn to for advice.”