Zero-landfill mission accomplished
As of July 18, Coca Cola of Northern New England officially stopped sending any trash to the landfill at all.
Last year, the bottler’s plant in Londonderry produced about eight dumpsters worth of trash, a drastic reduction from the five dumpsters per month that the facility would have been throwing away without its recycling programs. But, thanks to the company’s new contract with Casella Waste, those remaining dumpsters will go to a waste-to-energy plant in Haverhill, Mass. instead of to the landfill.
“I don’t know any other warehousing facility around here that’s like that,” said Ray Dube, sustainability manager for CCNNE. “I do so much speaking at other companies, this is such a great thing to talk about.”
The new contract is the final step in creating a zero-landfill facility, accompanying other waste-reduction and environmentally friendly policies long used by the bottling plant.
These other policies include attempting to recycle every possible material, sharing ideas with other businesses, installing full LED lighting and altering truck routes to make them more efficient.
Dube said this focus on efficiency has been part of CCNNE’s company culture for 40 years.
“We’ve always been that way,” he said. “What drives us to do this stuff? A lot of it is financial. It has to make financial sense to do this.”
But Dube said the “big picture” also included environmental considerations, adding, “Let’s face it, we all live in the same neighborhood as you guys do.”
Market for recyclables
But waste-to-energy facilities like the one in Haverhill are not without controversy, and New Hampshire has faced enduring debate about the environmental impacts of the waste-to-energy process.
According to Michael Wimsatt, director of the NH Department of Environmental Services’ Waste Management Division, critics are most often concerned about the facilities’ emissions and the higher concentration of metals found in the ash that must be landfilled after burning that trash.
However, that landfill doesn’t create large amounts of methane, a potent greenhouse gas, the same way a regular landfill does. Extra precautions like multiple liners are also put in place to prevent an ash-filled landfill from failing, Wimsatt said.
“The [Solid Waste Management Act] says we should have an integrated method of waste management,” said Wimsatt. “All of these technologies have their place.”
Dube also said that given the small amount of trash CCNNE produces, the waste-to-energy plant is the better option.
“If you’re burning recyclables, then no, [waste-to-energy plants] are not environmentally friendly,” he said. “But if your recycling programs are in place, I feel it’s a better way to dispose of that last bit than landfilling it.”
For other businesses that are interested in getting those recycling programs in place, Dube suggested starting with a waste audit, looking around the factory floor and seeing what kind of trash is left over at the end of the day.
He also said there are dozens of recyclable materials that have a market. Plastic bags, shrink wrap, buckets, pails, fabric and even sawdust are recyclable, with companies willing to buy what would have gone in the dumpster.
“Now instead of paying $100 a ton to get rid of [some waste], you’re making $100 to $125 a ton to sell it,” Dube said. “At the end of the day, that’s real money to the bottom line. There’s a financial incentive to do this for [all companies]. Once you show them, they’re hooked.”
The “Just One Thing” Campaign is an effort of New Hampshire Businesses for Social Responsibility. Its purpose is to challenge businesses to consider incorporating a sustainability initiative into their operations. Companies can celebrate their achievements and inspire others by sharing their stories on the campaign’s webpage. To submit your story or read others, visit nhbsr.org/jot.