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Reducing waste is good for our business and the environment.

Waste reduction allows us to streamline costs and send as few materials to landfills as possible. Our environmental management experts are continuously exploring innovations in packaging and waste diversion to reduce operational waste output, increase our recycling footprint and reuse waste to add value to products or create new sources of energy.

As shown in the table below, waste generated increased while, at the same time, our FY2019 numbers indicate improvements were made in waste to landfill, waste diverted from landfill, recycle and beneficial reuse rate, and landfill waste intensity. We remain committed to continuous improvement in our waste and recycling efforts and, in FY2020, will conduct zero waste to landfill trials at select production facilities. The results and learnings from these trials will inform future waste and recycling goal setting for the company.

Waste Generated1 FY2017 FY2018 FY2019
Waste Generated (million pounds) 2,980 4,315 6,045
Waste to Landfill (million pounds) 334 816 800
Waste Diverted from Landfill (million pounds) 2,646 3,500 5,244
Recycle & Beneficial Reuse2 Rate 89% 81% 87%
Landfill Waste Intensity (pounds landfilled to produce 100 pounds of finished product) 1.10 2.64 2.60

1This footprint includes data from our U.S.-based operations. Information from our U.S.-based Cobb-Vantress, The Pork Group, hog buying stations, Keystone Foods, American Proteins, Inc., and Tecumseh Poultry are not included in this footprint. The increase in waste generated can be attributed to improved data reporting with our waste vendors regarding the amount of waste generated and recycled in our operations.

2Beneficial reuse can include activities such as composting, land application and digestion.

Packaging

Our packaging strategy aligns with the five “Rs”—Remove, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle and Renew—and is guided by the recommended packaging metrics and definitions set forth by the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC) and the Global Packaging Project. The packaging design process prioritizes increasing the use of recyclable and renewable materials, as well as minimizing packaging where possible. At the same time, our packaging must be durable enough to endure handling through receipt, inventory, packing use, distribution, point of sale, consumer use and disposal, as well as meeting our high standards for food compatibility and safety. We stay abreast of innovations in packaging technology and ways to source renewable packaging materials.

The packaging innovation labs and pilot plants at our Discovery Centers in Springdale, Arkansas, and Downers Grove, Illinois, are focused on developing sustainable packaging solutions. Engineers at these two facilities conduct extensive testing to optimize final package design and performance. In addition, we leverage the packaging testing capabilities of our strategic packaging suppliers to evaluate new and improved packaging materials and technologies.

The Tyson Foods Packaging Development group is a member of two significant sustainability organizations: the American Institute for Packaging and the Environment (AMERIPEN) and the Sustainable Packaging Coalition® (SPC®). AMPERIPEN is a leading North American packaging advisory group and gives us insight and participation into legislative initiatives around packaging materials and formats. SPC® is a membership-based collaborative that provides a platform to discuss, partner and engage in packaging technologies, materials and specification developments. SPC® also possesses a comprehensive training and on-package communication tool, How-2-Recycle, that Tyson Foods and our customers are adopting for improved sustainability education aimed toward our customers and consumers.

In FY2019, we moved 100% of our corrugated supply purchases from 29.9% post-consumer recycled (PCR) content to 35.5%. This is a significant advance in the use of PCR fiber content, given the conditions in which our products are used (refrigerated/frozen, high-humidity, heavy-weight product mix environment), and we believe that this is close to the maximum corporate average PCR content that is attainable using currently available materials. We also transitioned 15,000 tons of folding carton paperboard to 100% PCR content. This paperboard is also 100% recyclable. In FY2020, our intent is to more than double this conversion to approximately 40,000 tons.

We will further accelerate sustainable packaging progress with Packaging Sustainability Roadmaps, which Tyson Foods recently initiated with key strategic packaging partners. These matrices will help assess current benchmark positions, gaps and initiatives necessary to move to the next level of sustainable packaging. Pilot projects that we may explore along with partners may include:

  • Chemical recovery technology to capture plant plastic production waste
  • Recovery of plastic bag material from intercompany shipments in the case-ready beef and pork segment
  • Alternatives to expanded polystyrene (EPS) foam trays for Tyson Fresh Meats
  • Sustainable packaging assessment tools to assist in ranking various packaging options during innovation and development activities

Our packaging materials and packaging suppliers are required to comply with Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) packaging material guidelines and regulations, and Good Manufacturing Practices. Additionally, we require certification and compliance with Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI)/British Retail Consortium (BRC) or Food Safety System Certification (FSSC)-22000 guidelines for food contact packaging.

Food Waste Reduction

We are committed to seeking out opportunities to eliminate or minimize food waste in our direct operations and supply chain. At numerous touch points within our direct operations, we have established food waste diversion measures. For example:

  • At our corporate office, we are conducting a pilot project for composting food waste in our cafeteria in partnership with Food Loops, a local company.
  • In our animal processing operations, there is virtually no waste, and nearly every part of the animal is used. Not only do we harvest the meat for use in our products, we use the majority of animal byproducts to create saleable materials like animal feed, biofuels and fertilizer. We also repurpose byproducts for items such as cosmetics, leather, fertilizer and pharmaceutical ingredients.
  • During the packaging process, we optimize packaging to keep food fresh through its intended use-by date and use state-of-the-art food safety techniques that protect shelf life.
  • In our distribution centers, we optimize pallet load for the most efficient weight and cube utilization in a truck, and we use a world-class inventory and distribution system to keep our food safe and fresh.
  • At the point of sale, we offer consumers portion-controlled options to reduce waste and label guidance on preparation, cooking, storage, sell-by and best-if-used-by dates.

Tyson Foods processes approximately 45% of the poultry byproducts produced in the U.S. These byproducts are rendered into valuable sources of protein and other nutrients to use in industries including pet food, animal feed and aquaculture. Aquaculture is a recent area of growth for Tyson Foods, and we now provide animal byproduct meals and fats to fisheries in North, Central and South America and Asia. Our recent acquisition of the poultry rendering and blending assets of American Proteins, Inc. and AMPRO Products, Inc., will allow us to value up even more animal products, providing much-needed protein and upcycling materials that would otherwise go to landfills.

Leather Production

Use of animal byproducts is not limited to animal feed. We also process hides from cattle that have been harvested through a variety of curing processes to transform hides and skins into viable tanned leather that can be sold. Given Tyson Foods’ harvest volumes, we are one of the largest tanners of the world using the “wet blue” process, during which hides are treated with chromium salts before being dyed.

We engage with the leather industry as a member of the Leather Working Group (LWG), which works to advance traceability back to hide facilities for their 400-plus members, which include leather manufacturers, suppliers and brands like Tyson Foods. The organization promotes sustainable and environmentally sound business practices and implements an environmental compliance and performance capabilities assessment of leather manufacturers. We’ve been a member of LWG since 2008 and an executive committee board member for four consecutive years.

Each of our tanneries is audited by LWG, and we have received numerous awards for our performance. The LWG auditing protocol requires us to meet a stringent set of environmental controls in our tanneries, including the evaluation of energy use, water use and effluent treatment. While it is primarily an environmental audit, certified tanneries are expected to demonstrate reputable practices in all areas of business. The latest version will also evaluate worker and equipment safety in our tannery operations moving forward.