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Chocolate Making

Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Our steps towards zero waste to landfill

Waste reduction: Those are two words we’re pretty passionate about at Whittaker’s. Why? Because we believe that as a New Zealand-owned company, we have a responsibility to minimize our impact on the environment.

As Matt Whittaker, our Co-Chief Operating Officer explains: “It’s important to us that we protect our planet for future generations. Reducing, reusing and recycling, wherever possible, is just one way we work towards this goal. We’re by no means perfect, we have work to do – and this is an important part of our Good Honest Chocolate journey”.

Auditing our waste plays a key role here. It's the first step in determining how we’re currently performing. Then based on that information, we're able set goals and timeframes to get to our target of zero waste to landfill.

Getting in the experts to audit our waste

We reached out to Organic Wealth, a waste minimisation consultancy and education firm, to help us measure our waste footprint and find ways to reduce it. This project was led by our Planning Manager Sam Ellingham, who can often be found out the back of the factory, coming up with creative ways to reuse things that would otherwise go to landfill. His most recent upcycling strategy involved dropping off old plastic bins to his daughter’s and other local stables to be used as horse feed storage!

Together, Sam and Organic Wealth ran a waste audit in 2019 to inform our Waste Reduction Plan for the following year. 

They examined a whole day’s worth of waste:

  • breaking it into categories
  • weighing it
  • analysing it, and
  • providing reports on each area of the factory and offices.

The auditing experience and ongoing partnership has been invaluable. As Sam describes, “Organic Wealth fill the gaps in our knowledge. From showing us new ways of doing things to refining processes we already have in place. Like other industries, the waste industry changes and innovates too. So it is important to build relationships with local experts and check in regularly.”

Results of our waste audit

Where did we do well? What do we need to work on?

The Organic Wealth audit showed that we currently reuse, recycle or upcycle 56% of our waste. The largest proportion of this was:

  • cocoa husks, which we up-cycle as garden mulch in partnership with our local Palmers Garden center in Plimmerton, and
  • cardboard, which we pay to have collected and re-used by our packaging partners.

We’ve already begun work to address the remaining 44%, with the first milestone being a 50% reduction in our top five waste areas by the end of 2021. We hope to achieve this through a combination of education, new processes and research.

Whittaker’s Zero Waste to Landfill Programme

To keep us on track, we’ve created a Zero Waste to Landfill Programme made up of three phases:

Phase 1: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Upcycle

Here we’ll target the top five waste areas in 2020, focusing on those with the greatest weight (kg), where there are legitimate opportunities to reduce, upcycle, reuse or recycle. 

For us, these areas include:

  • factory food scraps
  • paper/cardboard
  • plastics (soft clear film)
  • cocoa bean sacks
  • office and cafeteria general household recycling.

As Matt explains, “it’s important to make sure that any end-of-life solution we use is a genuine fix, because if it isn’t, we’re not solving the real problem.”

Phase 2: Research and Development

There are some materials we don’t currently have an end-of-life solution for like gloves, hairnets and cloths, so 2020 is also a year for research, development, and relationship building.

For Sam, this phase “is about finding creative opportunities that we can turn into long term solutions.”

Phase 3: Education

Educating ourselves, our staff, and providing facilities to reduce, reuse and recycle waste is also a big part of our zero-waste programme. We hope if we get it right, that behavior change will flow-on to how waste is treated outside of the workplace as well.

What we’ve done so far

As part of our on-going progress towards zero waste to landfill, we have:

  • started turning chocolate waste into stock feed.
  • reduced the amount of internal process packaging we’re using (things like cardboard and plastic film)
  • stopped using pallet tape in our warehouse
  • met with a passionate group of local composters who are keen to trial a collection process for staff food scraps
  • begun research into social enterprise schemes which could provide end-of-life solutions for cocoa sacks and plastic buckets, and
  • committed to a comprehensive sustainable packaging project.  

Join us on the journey

“This is just the beginning. It’s something we’re passionate about, and will keep you updated on as we work towards our goal of zero waste to landfill,” says Matt.

Interested in what Matt and Sam are up to next? Don’t miss an update! Sign up to become a Whittaker’s Chocolate Lover.

Or, if you’ve got a question or great idea to reduce waste, get in touch!