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McCain Foods and the environment.

McCain Foods and the Environment

Protecting the environment has become a priority in many countries. A growing awareness of environmental concerns has led to a new understanding of mankind's dependence on a healthy environment. No one can afford to be complacent. Individually and collectively, we must all contribute to environmental solutions.

For a company such as McCain Foods, environmental responsibility consists of a complex set of priorities. Environmental obligations, for example, must be balanced with the absolute need for food safety, quality and security. These considerations need not conflict, but careful and ongoing research is necessary to achieve the best balance.

The McCain Foods Environment Committee meets regularly under the guidance of a senior vice president to consider every alternative for improvements in the company's environmental program and to implement new initiatives on a continuing basis. In addition to in-house resources and expertise, a wide range of outside experts stand behind the Committee's efforts.

One of the first steps taken was to carefully examine packaging materials used. McCain Foods' policy is to strive for minimum packaging without compromising food safety, quality and security. The approach to the environmental suitability of packaging is threefold: to reduce the total volume of solid waste materials, to use recycled materials, and to encourage the recycling of packaging.

Reduction at Source

Improved technology has enabled the use of less packaging on a number of products. For example in Canada, McCain's factories at Florenceville, N.B., and Portage La Prairie, Man., have acquired state-of-the-art alignment equipment for french fry packaging. This has resulted in an 8% reduction in overall packaging volume. In addition, new equipment and technology has led to the redesign of Lite Delite dinner packaging, bringing about a 30% reduction in packaging by weight.

Today there is a limited availability of recycled packaging supplies in Canada and the United States. However, McCain Foods is committed to ensuring that its packaging is produced from recycled materials wherever possible. On a tonnage basis, 23% of the company's total packaging in 1989 was produced from recycled material. In May 1990 this figure rose to 44%, and in September 1990 to 55%. By September 1991, more than 61% of total packaging purchases was made from recycled material. And efforts to increase this percentage are ongoing.


The growth of recycling around the world will depend on improved technology, more companies entering into recycling ventures, and the development of new markets for recycled materials and products. Some environmentalists have criticized Tetra Brik Aseptic (TBA) packaging (more commonly known as "drinking boxes") because they feel it is environmentally unsound.

At McCain Foods, TBA packaging is receiving close and careful scrutiny. On the positive side, data show that in terms of energy saved, TBA packaging requires less energy to produce, and less energy to transport than other forms of packaging such as glass. This lightweight, modern packaging requires no refrigeration, resulting in additional energy savings. And, with the pioneering efforts of Tetra Pac Inc. of Aurora Ont., Canada, and plastics recycler Superwood Ontario Ltd. of Mississauga, drinking boxes were collected as part of the Blue Box Recycling Program in three Ontario cities starting last year. Superwood Ontario Ltd. is recycling the drinking boxes with mixed waste plastics into a durable lumber substitute called "Superwood." A wide variety of other uses are also being developed.

McCain Foods will continue to encourage and support widespread recycling. The recyclable symbol has been added to a majority of the company's packaging.

Farm Management

The use of pesticides and chemicals in food production remains a hotly debated issue in Canada, the United States and Europe. Clearly, this environmental issue has resulted in a number of new challenges for both food companies and the agricultural community.

McCain Foods is facing these challenges head on. It only accepts products from suppliers which meet government approved pesticide residue levels. The company has also engaged an independent laboratory to determine pesticide residue levels in raw potatoes delivered to factories to produce french fries. Preliminary results show residue levels are well below federal guidelines.

At the farm level, independent growers have started a voluntary program of recording all use of chemicals. McCain Foods continues to encourage sound agricultural practices to reduce the use of agricultural chemicals. These include increased use of rotation crops and integrated pest management. Success has also been achieved in reducing or eliminating chemicals on the company's own farms.

Innovative technology is a large part of the effort to reduce the use of agricultural chemicals. For example. Thomas Equipment, a McCain Group company, has begun production of the "Beetle Eater," an environmentally sound alternative to chemical insecticides. The Beetle Eater uses hydraulically driven fans to dislodge and vacuum Colorado Potato Beetles from potato plants. Models are also being developed for use on strawberries and other crops.

On other fronts, McCain's scientific staff is doing extensive research on the use of organic fertilizers, biological insecticides and fungicides as well as organic control of soilborne crop diseases.

McCain Foods is also working closely with research personnel at Agriculture Canada to develop better environmental alternatives to some of the chemicals currently in use. All of these efforts are part of an overall program to reduce potentially negative environmental effects throughout the company's operations.

Factory Management

Because McCain Foods is a food processing company, its primary manufacturing wastes are non-toxic, consisting principally of potato waste water. Even though this waste is organic, it must be controlled and kept to a minimum. That is why the most advanced technology is used to control waste at all new facilities. In addition, older facilities are being upgraded on a continuing basis.

PHOTO : The redesign of Lite Delite boxes has cut packaging by 30% in weight.

PHOTO : The Beetle Eater vacuums pests from potato plants, thus making chemical insecticides unnecessary.
COPYRIGHT 1991 E.W. Williams Publications, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Special Section: Canada's International Frozen Food Company; McCain Foods Ltd.
Publication:Quick Frozen Foods International
Date:Oct 1, 1991
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