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Waste at Colorado brewery no longer getting trashed
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Waste at Colorado brewery no longer getting trashed

The MillerCoors brewery in Golden. (Photo via Denver.org)
The MillerCoors brewery in Golden. (Photo via Denver.org)
GOLDEN — Some people drink beer to get trashed. But the guys and gals at Colorado's best-known brewery are just saying no to getting trashed, and trash itself.

MillerCoors, which promotes responsible drinking in TV ads, on Monday announced that its brewery in Golden will no longer throw their garbage in landfills and recycle it instead.

The brewery, which is the largest in the United States, has eliminated an average of 135 tons of waste monthly that was previously sent to a landfill, MillerCoors officials said. No other breweries, including small craft or large national, have managed to achieve landfill-free status, they said.

"Environmental stewardship is part of our company DNA, and we challenge ourselves daily to be more sustainable throughout our operations," MillerCoors CEO Tom Long said in a press release. "Through our commitment to continuously improving, we've found a way to eliminate trips to the landfill and developed a zero waste model that's scalable to our other facilities."

Beginning in 2011, MillerCoors began reducing the municipal waste sent from the Golden Brewery to landfill, complementing process improvements with nearly $1 million in new infrastructure and equipment, including new choppers, bailers and compactors. The brewery beneficially reuses or recycles 100 percent of waste, including all glass, paperboard, plastics, metal and brewing byproducts, such as spent grain. Residual refuse, such as cafeteria waste and floor sweepings, is sent to a waste-to-energy facility and used as an alternative fuel source to generate electricity.

Longtime MillerCoors brewery employee Kelly Harris was a driving force in the efforts. As a shop floor technician, Harris noticed small process changes could lead to large waste reductions. After conducting research, he developed and implemented a waste-reduction business plan that in 2010 led MillerCoors Trenton, Ohio, brewery to become the company's first landfill-free facility and the world's first zero waste mega-brewery. Three other MillerCoors breweries —– Shenandoah, Irwindale, and Eden — have also achieved landfill-free status, the company indicated in its press release.

"There's a misperception that sustainable manufacturing is expensive, but employee behaviors are really the key to efficiently and affordably making the change," Harris said. "Working alongside brewery leadership, we developed a way to do things differently and implemented new manufacturing processes at the brewery. We've proven that there's an alternative place for all waste, even at one of the world's largest breweries."
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