Ferrara Candy Company’s plant at the corner of Harrison and Circle in Forest Park has achieved the goal of putting zero waste in landfills, according to the company’s director of U.S. manufacturing, John Conversa.

Conversa, who is also the plant manager of Ferrara’s Forest Park location, explained that one of the company’s operating principles is “Giving Back to the Community and Sustainability.” To put the “sustainability” part of that core value into action, Conversa and his leadership team at Ferrara’s Forest Park plant had to figure out what to do with around 1,300 tons of waste each year.

They had already made a good start in 2015 by recycling cardboard and metal drums for several years. To up their game, the plant partnered with VIM Recyclers and started the more labor intensive — and therefore more costly — task of segregating waste like cardboard, clear film, strapping, metal, wood and shrink-wrap film to go to separate recycling processes. Eventually they purchased a drum-crusher, which allowed them to load more drums on each truck and reduce the number of what they refer to as “pulls” from four per week to just one.

By the end of 2015, the plant had close to a 3:1 recycle-to-landfill ratio and reduced the amount sent to landfill to 400 tons.

Getting to zero

As the plant increased the amount of waste it was recycling, Conversa realized that Zero Waste was a realistic goal. “By July of 2016,” he said, “we had recycled 700 tons during the past six months and had sent only 32.17 tons to landfill, and we finished 2016 with 1,027 tons (over 2 million pounds) being recycled. It was then that we set a goal of going to Zero Waste in January of 2017.”

He explained that not everything can be recycled as easily as metal and paper, so what the plant does with that scrap is compact it and pay for the dumpster to be hauled to a staging site in this area. From there it is transported to Indianapolis where it is burned for renewable energy. Paying for that hauling costs extra.

Recycling does reduce the company’s bottom line a bit. According to Conversa, that’s why the values of his company are so important. 

“There is absolutely corporate support for this venture,” he said. “In fact we’ve had lots of discussions around other sustainable projects but the costs are extreme. We will cover the costs for Zero Waste, low energy LED light fixtures, etc. internally and not allow the changes to affect consumer pricing.”

For Ferrara Candy Co., the bottom line is not the only thing that matters, Conversa said. 

“Two million pounds — that’s over 50 semi-trailers — were recycled vs. dumped in landfill last year,” he said. “To pack 140 million pounds of candy annually while not putting any scrap into landfill is something we like to call ‘Sharing Goodness.’ I’m satisfied with knowing we’re doing it because it’s the right thing to do.”