By Elizabeth Niven
On April 22, more than one billion people world wide celebrated Earth Day’s 42nd anniversary seeking a healthier, more sustainable planet.
At Monsanto, every day is Earth Day. To underscore its commitment to sustainability, Monsanto in St. Louis has taken the adage of reduce, reuse and recycle to a new level with substantial results. In 2011, through composting, recycling, donating and using green technologies, the company’s environmental footprint was significantly reduced to the tune of more than 2,800,000 pounds of waste diverted from landfills.
To accomplish this, corporate services implemented a plan that established and renewed partnerships with customers, suppliers, local recyclers, composters and nonprofit organizations to reduce the volume of waste that the St. Louis sites send to landfills.
The greatest volume of waste was produced by desk-side trash, laboratory and greenhouse operations and construction activities, so efforts focused in those areas.
At Monsanto, compostable materials are found in non-regulated plant and soil waste from greenhouses, restroom paper hand towels, landscape debris and pre- and post- consumer food scraps from the cafeterias and break rooms. More than 450,000 pounds of these materials were picked up from housekeeping and composted at Route 66 Organics’ Pacific, Mo, site. At this facility, the material is ground up, placed into windrows and ultimately turned into finished compost and soil products that are sold locally.
In 2011, the St. Louis sites recycled more than 2 million pounds of materials including: paper, plastic, glass, metals, wooden pallets, laboratory solvents and electronic wastes. Additionally 350,000 pounds of special types of waste such as laboratory trash and treated seed were kept out of landfills by being sent to a waste-to-energy facility for energy recovery.
“Our aggressive changes in some of the disposal processes significantly reduced the volume,” said Bob Creely, environmental specialist for Monsanto. “This included comingled recycling, which allows different types of recyclables to accumulate in single containers and then is separated through a mechanical process at the vendor’s facility. With that process, we were able to replace all desk-side trash cans with recycling containers and divert more than one million pounds of waste from landfills in 2011.”
The genetics quality assurance lab was a standout performer in reducing waste. Lab staff embraced the program, and with the help of Creely and his team, diverted more than 200,000 pounds of waste from landfills last year.
“Every year, we test more and more samples, and, in turn, we consume more and more lab supplies. We wanted to recycle to prevent our lab waste from going into landfills,” said Lisa Voss, GQA lab DNA extraction coordinator. “We used to separate every kind of plastic into 9-10 recycling receptacles throughout the lab. It was complicated and sometimes didn’t happen. Then Bob came up with a simplified process, comingled plastics and separated #5 plastics. Now it’s easier; our lab is designed with recycling in mind and it’s become a way of life over here.”
“We feel good about what we are doing and continue to look for new ways to recycle and reduce consumables,” said Voss. “It would be hard for us NOT to recycle, and that is the way it should be.”
Monsanto has reduced its construction and renovation waste by purchasing standardized furniture to increase reuse and by donating older furniture, fume hoods and laboratory casework to local non-profit organizations, including schools, arts councils and area chambers of commerce. In addition, more than 100 workstations were reused when they were relocated from Chesterfield to Monsanto’s Davis, Calif. site.
Without intervention, St. Louis sites would have sent more than 4 million pounds of trash to landfills last year, which is equivalent to 4004 metric tons of annual greenhouse gas emissions. As a result of these programs, Monsanto St. Louis sites are now diverting nearly 65 percent of the waste formerly headed for a landfill.
“Our eventual goal in the program is zero waste from our sites,” said Creely. “We continue to conduct waste audits looking for ways to cut additional waste and enhance existing processes. We are always looking for new ideas.”