Sonoco Moving Plants to Landfill-Free Status

Sonoco, Hartsville, S.C., USA, this week announced plans to move its manufacturing plants to landfill-free status. To achieve landfill-free status, Sonoco operations must divert 99% of all wastes from landfills, said Harris DeLoach Jr., chairman and CEO.

Sonoco has implemented employee-driven programs at five manufacturing plants in the company's Packaging Services, Consumer Packaging, and Tubes and Cores operations that are focused on reducing waste streams to less than 1% (on a waste-to-landfill ratio) by the end of 2011. In addition, the company has established a goal to have 10% of its global manufacturing operations achieve landfill-free status by 2015.

"As one of the largest packaging recyclers in North America, we have established programs through our Sonoco Sustainability Solutions, LLC (S3) service that are eliminating landfill wastes at our customers' manufacturing plants and have moved 10 plants to land fill-free status," DeLoach noted. "While we have always worked to reduce landfill wastes from our own plants, we are now focused on taking the next step in moving our operations to landfill-free status where possible."

Sonoco's Winston-Salem, N.C., corrugated point-of-purchase display manufacturing facility is the company's first plant to move to landfill-free status, according to David Holcomb, director of manufacturing, Sonoco-Corrflex. The plant is equipped with corrugators and converting equipment, including die cutters, printing presses, folding and gluing lines, and its waste stream included corrugated materials, plastic films, wraps, bands, ink containers, cutting dies, batteries, and standard facility recyclables.

Beginning in 2008, the plant's employees formed a "Green Team" that was initially focused on reducing the plant's landfill wastes by 50% over 18 months. Within that time frame, they were able to reduce wastes by 65% and currently are achieving a less than 1% waste-to-landfill ratio. As a result of its employees' efforts, the Winston-Salem plant was honored with a 2010 North Carolina Triad Green Award for its waste reduction improvement.

"The most important lesson learned was to never accept 'it can't be done' as an answer," said Holcomb. "A case in point was cutting dies (used to perforate displays from sheets of corrugating paper). Historically, there was no outlet for diverting dies from landfills. However, through the work of our team and suggestions from a customer, we have now sent some 65,000 lb of dies to a waste to energy facility."

Sonoco-Corrflex has set up recycling programs in two other fulfillment/promotional pack sites, and has identified other operations in which it will work to move to landfill-free status in the near future. In addition, Sonoco has programs in place at the company's Hartsville tubes and cores converting plant and its West Chicago, Ill., composite can plant to achieve landfill-free status by end of 2011.