Perfectionists at work

Avoiding waste is more than worthwhile for Emmi: losing less in processing means less has to be used in the first place. A team from the site in Suhr put waste under the microscope, and won the Emmi Sustainability Prize in the process.

Rummaging in the rubbish: inspired by the sustainability motto "Closing materials cycles", the team in Suhr inspected their rubbish to see what could be reused. With very successful results, as they were able to show not only that disposal costs can be brought down, but that there are many different ways of recycling waste profitably as well. Which is completely in line with Emmi's principle of giving avoiding waste top priority over reducing it (second priority) or recycling it (third priority). After cardboard (280 tonnes or 28 %) and Tetra Pak paper (225 tonnes or 23 %), the largest categories of materials remaining were general waste and plastics (accounting for 19 % each). And in respect of plastics in particular, the team came up with a number of ideas as to how to reduce the level of waste produced:

  • Plastic bottles such as those used for soap are made of the same material as milk bottles and can be disposed of and recycled together with such bottles.
  • Small consumables made of polypropylene, such as pipettes, test beakers or ink cartridges, are no longer thrown away but instead given to a specialist disposal firm for reprocessing into pellets that can be re-used as a raw material.
  • The backing paper from sheets of labels is being collected, desiliconised by a specialist recycling company and reprocessed into pulp and paper.
  • The plastic sheet placed in containers for transporting butter is now 10 % thinner, leading to an annual saving of almost six tonnes of polyethylene. Because the best waste is waste that has not been produced in the first place.

These measures and others like them have allowed the Suhr site to increase its recycling rate from 30 % to 80 % within the space of six years.

Little things soon add up

Incinerating one tonne of waste costs around CHF 220. Extrapolations have shown that specific and careful disposal methods in Suhr have the potential to generate a saving of around CHF 80,000.

In addition, if plastics and Tetra Pak paper are collected separately, CO2 emissions will be down around 690 tonnes each year.

Resting on laurels not an option

As at end 2013, Suhr fell just short of achieving its very ambitious goal of a recycling rate of 90 %, with 84 %. Incentive enough, then, to keep doing more. Thanks to additional measures which also include a staff training component, the recycling rate currently stands at over 87 %.