Responsibility

Waste

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We follow a reduce, reuse, recycle and recover hierarchy in our operations.

General Mills continues to focus on food waste reduction from operations and moving recyclables to higher value markets including reuse.

During 2015, we were challenged by decreased production volumes and additional waste related to product changes that affected our reduction rates:

  • We decreased our solid waste generation rate by 38 percent through 2015, compared to 41 percent in 2014, falling short of our target.
  • We reduced solid waste generation by 27 percent in absolute terms since 2005, while net sales rose 57 percent.
  • During this period, solid waste generation decreased by 43 percent, not including Yoki and Yoplait.

In 2015, we reused or recycled over 86 percent of our waste globally with the remainder going to landfills (12 percent) or energy recovery (2 percent).

Recapturing value from waste provides a financial benefit to General Mills, representing US$8 million of net revenue in 2015 for our North American operations.

Waste reduction worldwide

We have established zero-waste-to-landfill targets at 30 percent of our production facilities by 2020, and 100 percent by 2025.

Worldwide, in 2015, four General Mills production facilities – about 6 percent of the total globally – met these targets by reusing, composting or recycling at least 90 percent of all waste:

  • Midland, Ontario, Canada
  • Landes, France
  • Berwick, U.K.
  • Chanhassen, Minnesota, U.S.

The remainder is incinerated for energy recovery.

Food waste reduction

Worldwide, about one-third of food is wasted – equaling 1.3 billion metric tons of food waste each year – while nearly 1 billion people do not have enough to eat.

Addressing this issue not only benefits people but also the environment by decreasing demands on agriculture and reducing food in landfills.

This is critical, since food waste has five times the impact per kilogram in a landfill as packaging waste due to the methane it creates – a GHG 20 times more potent than carbon dioxide.

We help reduce food waste by:

  • improving our production processes
  • donating surplus food to charitable organizations
  • collaborating across our supply chain

Production processes

Due to our highly efficient production processes, the amount of food waste we generate represents less than 2 percent of our total product volume.

Nonetheless, we continually pursue opportunities to further reduce this waste.

Donations

We donate surplus food, including overruns of products with seasonal packaging or surplus ingredients.

In 2015, we provided US$49.9 million in food donations globally – enabling 20 million meals that nourish people around the world rather than recycling the food (such as using it for animal feed) or sending it to landfills.

Collaboration

We help address food waste through industry collaboration. 

General Mills is a founding partner of the U.S. Food Waste Challenge, a collaborative effort of the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to encourage reduction of food waste; recovery of wholesome food for human consumption; and recycling discarded foods for other uses, such as animal feed, compost or energy recovery. 

We also participate in the Food Waste Reduction Alliance.

Composting

We compost food and other organic waste at our facilities around the world, reducing waste sent to landfills.

  • In Winnipeg, Canada, our Pizza Pops facility converted all food waste to compost, decreasing waste to landfill by 247 metric tons in 2015.
  • In Irapuato, Mexico, our Old El Paso and Green Giant locations in Irapuato transformed waste from tacos, tortillas and fresh and frozen vegetables – as well as cardboard – into compost. During 2015, 575 metric tons of organic waste were composted and used as fertilizer in our greenhouses, up 35 percent from the prior year.
  • In Minneapolis, Minnesota, our headquarters diverted approximately 80 metric tons of organic waste from landfills in 2015, reducing the facility’s landfill use by more than 45 percent.

Learn more

2016 Annual Report

150 years of growth 

Global Responsibility

2016 report