Garbage trucks no longer stop at the Cargill meat processing facility in Hazleton, Pa. That’s because the 225,000-square-foot plant sends nothing to landfills. In fact, on March 29, Ann Arbor, Mich.-based NSF International verified the facility's landfill-free status after a detailed review of documentation and a 3-day on-site audit, making it the company’s first plant to accrue this achievement.

Although some materials were already being recycled, in 2012 Cargill's Hazleton plant sent 1,500 tons of waste, including plastic, bio-solids, paper and other materials to local landfills. In mid-2013, employees at the facility began a stepped-up recycling effort, and within five months reduced the amount of waste materials going to landfills by 280 tons, while saving the company $30,000. As an ongoing requirement for verification, the Hazleton facility will undergo annual reassessment audits.

"Having successfully taken the first step, the Hazleton team decided to strive for something that had never been accomplished at Cargill, while pushing the envelope to better align with our global corporate focus on sustainable food production," says Aaron Humes, the plant's general manager. "We weren't certain we could go all the way to landfill-free status, but we were confident that we could significantly improve our sustainability footprint. The team here swung for the fences and hit a grand slam home run. Everyone at Hazleton is proud to be part of this achievement."

The Hazleton team's goals were simply to help preserve the environment, engage all employees in the effort and strengthen relationships with customers. To kick off the effort, in 2013, the plant partnered with a local company that helped improve the facility's recycling program.  Within five months, 20% less waste was going to landfills. 

That success invigorated Cargill's Hazleton team to become verified landfill free. In May 2014, approximately 1,000 tons of unrecyclable plastic was used to produce energy, about 1,500 tons of food waste was rendered into other products and more than a ton of oil was re-purposed for use as lubricants.

"This planet is home to more than 7 billion people, and it will need to sustain more than 9 billion by 2050," says John Keating, president of Cargill's beef and case ready meat products business.  "Every day, we work to improve our environmental footprint while nourishing many millions of people with the best protein that the civilized world has ever known, as well as helping communities thrive as we do it. Cargill has been nourishing people and communities for 150 years, and we embrace the challenge to be excellent stewards of all resources. Clearly, doing what is best for people, the planet and the community has been woven into the Hazleton team's cultural fabric. All of us at Cargill are proud to be associated with their wonderful achievement, and I know our customers served by Hazleton will be thrilled as well."

The Hazleton plant employs 600 people and produces more than 10 million pounds of beef, pork and ground meat products monthly.

This announcement comes just days after Cargill’s turkey agricultural team in California, Mo., announced that it reached 1.4 million work hours without a lost-time injury.