• In 2013, employees at Cargill’s meat processing plant in Hazleton, Pennsylvania, team up to overhaul the facility’s sustainability program.
  • In the first year, the plant reduces waste by 280 tons, saving the company US $30,000. By 2014, it is certified as 100% landfill-free.

Nothing goes to waste in Hazleton

A Pennsylvania-based meat processing plant becomes the first Cargill facility in the world to become landfill-free.

In the town of Hazleton, Pennsylvania, where Cargill has operated its meat processing facility for more than 13 years, over 10 million pounds of beef, pork and ground meat products are shipped to customers across the country each month. While shipping vehicles are often coming and going from the plant, there are no garbage trucks to be seen. Unlike most meat processing facilities in the United States, Cargill’s operations in Hazleton send zero solid waste to landfills—all thanks to the creative thinking and dedication of its employees.

Just three years ago, the facility was sending 1,500 tons of plastics, bio-solids, papers and other waste to local landfills annually. Though some materials were being recycled, Hazleton staff saw the need for change. In early 2013, a group of Cargill employees began developing an initiative to reinvent the plant’s recycling program. The team’s goal was to recruit all of the facility’s 600 employees to participate in the new sustainability program. In just five months, the plant reduced landfill waste by 280 tons—a 20% reduction that saved the company US $30,000 that year.

““We were not certain we could go all the way to landfill-free status, but we were confident we could significantly improve our sustainability footprint.” — Aaron Humes, General Manager, Cargill Beef

After seeing the vast improvement made in mere months, Hazleton employees pushed the effort further, aiming to produce zero landfill waste in 2014. They partnered with external agents to recycle plastic, bio-solids and other materials, and found non-landfill destinations for the plant’s solid waste. Unrecyclable plastics used at the plant were converted into energy to power the facility, while excess food waste and oil were given to manufacturers for use in products like lubricants.

In the spring of 2015, the National Sanitation Foundation (NSF International) acknowledged Cargill’s achievements from the previous year, officially verifying the meat processing plant as landfill-free. Customers that purchase meat products from the facility are thrilled with the new practices, recognizing Cargill’s efforts to do what is best for the Hazleton community—and for the planet. The company continues to pursue new ways to drive sustainability efforts, leading the way for responsible production and environmental conservation, both in Hazleton and around the world.