Two cheese plants in New York will turn used whey into energy in a move that will supplant a third of the facilities' natural gas purchases. The company also will avoid the expense of hauling the waste away.
Digesters at the company's Lowville plant, which makes Philadelphia cream cheese, and a string cheese plant in Campbell turn the whey into biogas. It's part of the company's broader efforts to green operations in the areas of agriculture, packaging, energy, water, waste and transportation.
"Our facilities have previously used strategies such as concentrating the whey to reduce volume and finding outlets for it to be used as animal feed, or for fertilizer on environmentally approved farm fields," said Sustainability Vice President Steve Yucknut. "Both methods required transporting the whey off-site. Now, we're reducing the associated CO2 emissions that are part of transporting waste, discharging cleaner wastewater from our on-site treatment systems, and creating enough alternative energy to heat more than 2,600 homes in the Northeast."
The company's broader goals include reducing energy consumption and energy-related CO2 by 25 percent, and manufacturing plant waste by 15 percent.
Rather than sending it to landfills, companies from across several sectors are increasingly viewing waste as a commodity.
General Motors, for example, recently announced that half of its manufacturing plants worldwide would reach landfill-free status by 2010, with scrap metal sales topping $1 billion.
McDonald's successfully transformed waste into electricity earlier this year at several United Kingdom restaurants, while Chrysler is converting used paint solids from two St. Louis assembly plants into electricity. Heinz also is working on a program to transform used potato peels into energy.