Del Monte Foods, Inc. owns 14 production facilities that process fruits, vegetables, and other ingredients to make our consumer products.
Most of the facilities are located in the United States; however, we also own two facilities in Mexico and one in Venezuela. At each site, we began tracking and managing our performance with regard to materials, energy, water, waste, and emissions. We have adopted Lean manufacturing standards to streamline production processes and eliminate waste and inefficiency. Through these efforts, we are improving yields, reducing costs, and eliminating risk.
It may seem a simple thing, but another way that we minimize our facilities’ footprint is by ensuring that our processing plants are as close as possible to the fields where our crops are grown and harvested. Although the obvious benefit is the reduction in fuel used for transporting the produce (and reductions in related air emissions), co-locating our facilities means that we are using the freshest possible fruits and vegetables to make our products. We are also reducing the amount of produce that goes to waste because of spoilage or transportation-related damage. In sum, it’s another win-win: better tasting products made from fresher crops coupled with reduced costs related to transportation and spoilage.
Capitalizing on Energy Efficiency
Our company has long been focused on continuous improvement projects and investing in equipment upgrades that generate significant energy and cost savings. Our manufacturing facilities consume a fair amount of energy to process raw ingredients into final products. Given the economic and environmental implications of intensive energy use—especially as related to energy derived from nonrenewable sources such as natural gas, coal, or oil—we have implemented a wide array of energy reduction initiatives. These initiatives range from the installation of photovoltaic solar arrays, to numerous simpler and complex efficiency projects and equipment upgrades.
Our Modesto Plant serves as an example of a facility that implemented multiple initiatives to reduce its energy consumption. From 2001-2009, the plant installed a combined heat and power system, selective catalytic reduction unit, condensing economizer, and backpressure turbine generator to its boiler system. These upgrades cut natural gas use by 20 percent. Lighting, compressed air, and other electric efficiency upgrades also reduced energy use by 12 percent. We have a company-wide program dedicated to implementing condensing economizers to improve heat recovery and steam system efficiency. As of 2012, 50 percent of our facilities utilize this technology, and we continue to expand this program across our other facilities. Our pet facilities have a dedicated program that integrates LEAN thinking to drive energy efficiencies throughout their operations.
As a result of these efforts, Del Monte Foods, Inc. received the 2011 Greenhouse Reduction Award from the California Manufacturers and Technology Association (CMTA) and the Industrial Environmental Association (IEA). This Award recognizes companies that display environmental excellence in their operations.
We will continue to seek out energy reduction opportunities across all our facilities and invest in the improvements that collectively reduce both our air emissions, including greenhouse gases (GHGs), and our operating costs. Our company continually assesses our investment opportunities in renewable energy solutions at each of our facilities. When economically feasible, we hope to incorporate wind power at our Midwest facilities, utilize organic byproducts for energy from biogas, construct fuel cells where electric costs are high, and continue to install solar panels where the sunshine is brightest.
In 2012, Del Monte's total electricity and natural gas usage was approximately 105,100,000 kWh and 1,739 MMcf, respectively, at production facilities, distribution centers, and research locations.
|Facilities||# of Panels / Area Covered||Annual Power Production||Annual Power Production Equivalent to:|
|Hanford||6,400 panels covering 122,473 square feet||1.8 MM kWh||- More than 30% of total electricity requirements during non-pack season - Power for approximately 178 homes for one year|
Capturing and Reusing Waste Heat
Our company began utilizing one type of energy efficiency equipment in 2001. This equipment helps us capture waste heat from boilers and reuse it in other plant processes. Six facilities installed "condensing boiler stack economizers" to use hot exhaust gases from boilers to preheat water in a heat-exchanger system. This process improves the operating efficiency of the boilers by up to 12 percent, reducing the amount of natural gas needed to run the boilers by the same percentage.
We continue to evaluate which facilities are good candidates for installing additional condensing economizers. Among the factors we consider are whether the extra production of hot water at the plant would be beneficial, whether similar results could be obtained through other (less costly) means, and whether the new equipment costs make sense given overall facility fuel consumption patterns. Currently, we are installing this technology at two additional plants.
Water is a critical resource for food processing. Our plants use water for tasks such as washing and sanitizing fruits and vegetables, thermally processing our canned products, and sanitizing equipment. To the extent possible, we capture and reuse water within the plant. For example, at most of our facilities we recycle our can cooling water and, through heat exchangers, use it to preheat our boiler feed water. By doing so, we reduce the amount of new water needed and also reduce our energy needs.
In 2012, Del Monte used 1,736 million gallons of fresh water at production facilities, distribution centers, and research locations.
Water discharged from our facilities is sent to various destinations based on the quantity of water and whether it requires treatment to remove contaminants before it can be returned to the environment. Some facilities possess onsite screening or pretreatment systems for process wastewater. Following screening or pretreatment, facilities may route their wastewater to local water treatment facilities or to sites where the water is applied to the land (typically as part of crop irrigation).
In some cases, water is thoroughly cleaned to meet stringent federal and state guidelines for purity and released back into surface waters. At our Sleepy Eye, Minnesota facility, wastewater passes through hyperbolic screens, an anaerobic digester, an aerated pond, settling ponds, and a dissolved air flotation unit before it is released.
In 2012, Del Monte discharged 1,300 million gallons of wastewater to treatment facilities, land application sites or surface waters.
Chloride is an elemental chemical that is a basic component of table salt (table salt contains one part sodium and one part chloride). At Del Monte, chloride is used as an ingredient in the brine for vegetable-packing, in the vegetable-sorting process, and to recharge water softeners. It is also found in sanitation chemicals, water disinfectant chemicals, and wastewater treatment chemicals.
Although many uses of chloride are beneficial and chloride is crucial to our processing operations, too much chloride released to the natural environment can be harmful. Specifically, aquatic plants and animals cannot tolerate high chloride concentrations.
We take care to reduce the amount of chlorides that are released from our facilities. We have installed special equipment, including
- briners that capture brine displaced during can sealing operations (we reuse the brine);
- concentrated brine systems that ensure that only hot water is displaced during can sealing operations; and
- reverse osmosis systems to reduce the volume of soft water which reduces the amounts of softener regeneration required.
We’ve seen good results from these actions. For example, our green bean processing plant in Markesan, Wisconsin has reduced its chloride discharge by 54 percent. We are researching additional ways we can further reduce the amount of chloride we release.
Due to the nature of our operations, we generate a considerable volume of organic waste at our fruit and vegetable processing plants as byproducts of the production process. We are currently benchmarking our waste management practices and specifically comparing landfilling to recycling rates to ensure that we are managing our waste streams in the most efficient manner possible.
In 2012, less than 3% of the total waste generated at production facilities, distribution centers, and research locations went to a landfill. The rest was reused for feed stock, reapplied to farm land, or recycled.
We continue to explore ways to eliminate the generation of waste in the first place, and look for opportunities to reuse waste materials whenever possible.