Watch editor-in-chief Andy Hanacek's video interview with Michele Boney, Director of Environmental Health and Safety at West Liberty Foods, about the process of turning the newly acquired Bolingbrook, Ill. facility into a landfill-free facility.

Andy Hanacek: Congratulations again on being once-again a landfill-free company, not just a landfill-free facility. That’s kind of one of the challenges of acquiring a facility like this Bolingbrook facility here. When you are looking at landfill-free, you have to get that under the same certification and maintain that for your whole company. Talk about some of the challenges of embarking on that journey with a facility like Bolingbrook that’s a little bit different than some of your other facilities.

Michele Boney: We did things a little differently here. We came in and we looked at the different departments that were working at the plants and we ended up creating color coding for the buggies they take around to pick up the waste within the departments out on the facility floor as well. We had to create a green room that used to be a trash room. Now it’s a green room and we just repurposed the things that were in there for recycling. People have to separate things a little bit differently than they are used to, and I think another challenge is just teaching the team members a new habit. It’s a culture change, and I think that’s one of the challenges that we have in any facility. But I think once you get people involved, and once you tell them why we are doing it, [how they] can help, what they are getting through [and] what they are doing for their communities, they understand it too and they like it. They are proud of themselves, and you can see that by [the fact that] we had people wearing T-shirts. We handed them out yesterday, and everyone was wearing their T-shirts today. It was great.

Hanacek: Did the process to get the Bolingbrook facility landfill-free certified go as planned? Did it take a little longer? Did it take a little shorter? What drove the speed of the transition?

Boney: I don’t think it took any longer. I think that the more practice I have of getting a plant to landfill-free [certification], the better that we are the next time we come into a new facility. It seems like we know what we need to do. We need to go in, figure out the waste-streams and figure out what kind of containers we need to recycle it into [and] what kind of vendors are in the area. I think that’s another kind of challenge when you go into a new state, you need to figure out what kind of vendors do they have. Do they have composting in the area? Do they have a waste energy facility? How far do we have to truck those things? There’s a lot of things that go into it, but the knowledge from doing the other three facilities helps so when you come into a new facility, it’s pretty easy.

Hanacek: And this facility, as I talked about in the cover story earlier this year, it’s very different as to the kind of processes it has and the products it’s producing. Were there any waste streams that maybe stood out as something new for you that posed a little more of a challenge that you had to do a little more digging to find an outlet for it?

Boney: I think there were some things. Probably [we had a situation] where we had to separate a bit more than we were used to. I think that was the toughest area we had going from what the other plants do to the challenges we have here with different types of meats we are producing. I think it was pretty good. We figured it out. We work as a team. Everybody’s involved, and we try to figure out how can we make this work. Not “can we make it work” [but] “how can we make it work.”

Hanacek: Shifting gears to Liberty Cold, brand-new construction. Are there any different challenges with making that a landfill free facility? You’ve attained that certification there. Or is it easier because it is a new facility from the ground up?

Boney: Yes, I think it is easier. When you come in and set everything up for team members when they start to work there. They don’t know anything different. They know recycling when they start there Day One, and I think that was a helpful thing. We did have some challenges. They have some different things over there, because they are cold storage. So they had a lot of wood, a lot of different things than what we are used to, but we’ve worked with vendors. We came up with solutions and we are landfill free.

For more videos on West Liberty Foods Bolingbrook facility’s landfill-free certification, click here.