Green Success: Heaven Hill Distilleries Steps up Recycling Efforts
Beginning operation in 1934 after the repeal of Prohibition, Heaven Hill Distilleries located in Bardstown, Kentucky has become the largest family-owned and operated producer and marketer of distilled spirits in the nation. Bottling over 12 million cases of spirits in 2012, one could imagine the amounts of leftover materials that could either go to a landfill or be recycled.
Fortunately, Heaven Hill decided to try recycling as part of their KY EXCEL membership. KY EXCEL is Kentucky's free, voluntary environmental leadership program open to individuals, communities, and organizations that wish to improve and protect Kentucky's environment in ways that extend beyond state requirements.
Kim Harmon, the Environmental Compliance Manager at the distillery, says, "When we started our recycling program in 2011, we tried to find everything that could be recycled and vendors to take the materials. We recycle paper labels, bands around pallets, aerosol cans, brown paper packing, blue drums, label backing, cardboard, plastic and glass."
"To implement the recycling project, we spent $4,000—$5,000 on recycling supplies and an additional $3,000—$4,000 per year for proper waste disposal. We are spending $4,000—6,000 every quarter on incentives, but it is worth it," she says. "We spent $5,000 on recycling receptacles, but their use has generated larger sums. Through recycling, we have saved $61,000 annually in landfill costs and generated $31,000 in revenue."
"Recycling was a big challenge at first——now it is part of the process," says Harmon. "In the beginning, finding support among the employees and management was hard due to resistance to change. We had an introduction to the program, training and an awareness campaign, plus, we expressed our appreciation to our employees."
Heaven Hill purchased hand trucks that were spring-loaded to move the drums of recyclables and a hydraulic pallet jack for the empty glass pallets. A recycling vendor provides gaylords and baling wire. In just seven months' time, the plant recycled 280 tons of cardboard, plastic and glass. The facility recycled 614 tons in 2012. Department managers are looking in each of their areas for ways to further reduce waste.
Heaven Hill's plant wide recycling program has resulted in everything having a specific place. Harmon says the program has reduced stress and uncertainty. Where trash had been thrown in millions of small boxes and shrink wrap was flowing out of containers, now there is organization. Truck traffic to the landfill has been reduced from three times a week to one. Each week, two trailers of recyclables leave the plant. When the company president saw the results of the program, he was pleasantly shocked. Harmon credits KY EXCEL, with garnering support and ownership for the project.
Read more at KY EXCEL.