With a vested interest in conducting business in a way that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs, Kraft Foods has placed sustainability at center stage. Two of its New York cheese plants took leading roles today, as Kraft announced completion of waste-to-energy projects at its manufacturing facilities in Lowville and Campbell.

“This is a time of opportunity for us,” said Steve Yucknut, Kraft’s vice president for sustainability. “Our customers want to do business with partners who support sustainability. Consumers want to buy products from companies that ‘get it’ and employees want to work for companies that respect and preserve the world around them. So, we've increased our focus on sustainability because it's the right thing to do and it makes good business sense.”

As a food and beverage company, Kraft is especially dependent on the ability of the Earth to produce the raw materials used every day to make Kraft products. While sustainability is not new to Kraft, a more focused approach is. “Kraft’s sustainability impact goes across the full supply chain, from farm to fork,” Yucknut said. “That creates a lot of opportunities, but we are choosing to look at six areas where we believe we can have the biggest impact: agriculture, packaging, energy, water, waste and transportation.”

The project showcased at Lowville is one of two waste-to-energy initiatives Kraft has undertaken in New York. The Kraft plants in Lowville and Campbell are using bio-methane from on-site waste treatment systems to replace 30 to 35 percent of each plant’s annual natural gas purchases in a year. Whey, one of the most significant waste byproducts from cheese plants, is the source of the alternative energy, which is created when whey is treated in each plant’s anaerobic digester system.

“Whey disposal has long been a challenge,” Yucknut said. “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. Both methods required transporting the whey offsite. 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.”

This project contributes to Kraft’s sustainability goals around energy, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions and waste reduction. The company has set goals to reduce

energy usage by 25 percent, energy-related carbon dioxide emissions by 25 percent and

manufacturing plant waste by 15 percent.

The Lowville digester creates enough biogas to heat about 1,000 homes; the Campbell system generates enough to heat more than 1,600 homes. Both systems have been designed, built and operated for Kraft by Ecovation Inc., now part of Ecolab. The Lowville waste-treatment system came online in February 2008. Campbell’s first digester was built in 2003, and has been expanded five fold. It was expected to be fully operational by the end of September.

Kraft’s Lowville plant, which makes Philadelphia cream cheese, has about 330 employees. Kraft’s Campbell plant makes Polly-O Italian-style cheeses and Kraft and Polly-O string cheese, and employs more than 400.