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Separating cardboard waste at a MillerCoors brewery

Our Priorities: Waste

‘Getting to zero six years early’

MillerCoors

North America

MillerCoors believe that waste is simply a resource out of place, and are committed to finding ways to reuse and recycle whenever they can. In 2009, the business reduced the total amount of waste sent to landfill by more than 20%, exceeding its 2015 waste goal six years early. Three MillerCoors breweries have now reached zero waste status: Elkton in Virginia, Irwindale in California and Trenton in Ohio.

At Trenton, reaching zero-waste status has been achieved through a number of different initiatives. To begin, technicians undertook a study to identify how much waste was generated a month from each packaging line. After finding the answer was 1,000 pounds, there was a clear rationale to think of how this waste could be minimised. Numerous bins and hoppers were located around the brewery, each colour-coded according to the waste. This initiative allowed different wastes to be separated, therefore minimising cross-contamination which in turn helps the waste to be recycled a lot more easily.

At Trenton, similarly to other breweries across MillerCoors, much of the waste is recycled and supplied to external groups. For example, bio-solids generated at the wastewater treatment plants are used to fertilise local farms and the lime from the wastewater treatment plant is reused as a soil conditioner. Fly ash is reused by a local cement manufacturer for cement mix, landfill cover and reclamation refill. Even discarded glass is ground into mulch and reused in landscaping in the brewery grounds.

Segregation of glass in a MillllerCoors brewery

Segregating glass helps to ensure zero contamination of waste

Reaching zero-waste status also requires innovation. For example, Trenton brewery has teamed up with a company which produces animal feeds from renewable sources to run a full scale trial of an innovative technology which creates a fish food ingredient from the brewery's waste water.

The new product can be used in place of the food sources currently employed by fish farms, thereby helping to alleviate the country's dependence upon stressed natural fish stocks whilst also adding to the ways in which brewery waste can be reused and recycled. The trials have proved extremely promising, paving the way for further exploration of how the technology can be implemented.

A key driver for the success at Trenton has been employee involvement and enthusiasm. As plant manager Denise Quinn describes, the workers at the brewery “are very proud of their accomplishments. And there is certainly a very high level pride around the communities that they live and work in. I think that that’s another extension: that this is something that they’re able to talk to other people about, that they feel that they are doing the right thing in the communities that they live and work in”.

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