The event’s featured speaker, Sarah Dean, shared how the North American Mars factories had been working to reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills and reduce other negative impacts on the environment.
Dean, who handles environmental and regulatory compliance for the company in North America, said the company does more than make candy.
“Even though everyone recognizes our name or knows our product, they are not familiar with our story,” Dean said.
Mars, a private company with employees in 19 countries, produces a variety of products ranging from pet food to beverages.
The Cleveland facility is part of the company’s chocolate-making division. It is the only facility in North America that produces Twix candy bars for the United States and Canada, Dean said.
Dean explained the company is guided by several principles, such as quality and efficiency. These led to a corporate announcement in 2010 that the company would change how its facilities affected the environment.
The goals were big ones, she said. The company publicly vowed to not have any of its North American facilities sending waste to landfills by 2040, to do away with using non-renewable energy sources to power the facilities and to no longer do anything to impact nearby water systems.
She said she found herself overwhelmed by the announcement because she knew the company would always be producing some kind of waste. However, she said she and others at her company have worked to fulfill the promise. They have found new ways to recycle so they are not putting waste into places it does not need to be.
“In 2009, before this was made public, we started a recycling program,” she said. “We ended out 2012 being 97 percent landfill free.”
She added, since the end of the year, all but two facilities in the United States had become 100 percent independent from landfill use. Two — including the Cleveland one — remain 97 percent independent from that kind of waste dumping.
Dean said Mars Chocolate in Cleveland hopes to reach 100 percent by the end of the year.
Locations nationwide are working to find new ways to reduce the amount of resources used and thrown away. Two facilities are currently using “solar gardens,” providing electricity with solar panels. One facility in Texas is using biogas produced by waste sitting in landfills to replace some of its natural gas usage.
Dean also spoke about the company’s efforts to help people — not just the environment. In 2007, the company stopped marketing its products to children. It also reduced serving sizes of candy products so no individual package contains more than 250 calories.
The company also has set the goal of only obtaining its cocoa from 100 percent certified sources by 2020, which she said would improve the quality of life for poor growers in Africa and South America.
At least 80 percent of all employees working at a given facility must also be from that particular country, providing local jobs where the products are produced, she said.
Joanne Maskew, executive director of the local Keep America Beautiful (KAB) chapter, announced The Great American Cleanup events, which continues from March 11 to May 22.
Upcoming events include various programs for students in local schools, an event called “It’s All About the Green” at Cleveland State Community College on April 13, a cleanup event on the Greenway on April 20 and two “Treasure and Trash” litter removal events on March 16 and May 4.
The Solid Waste Breakfast has been one of the local KAB chapter’s main fundraising events for nearly 20 years.
Maskew said the event name has caught the attention of many people over the years, even being featured by national news organizations when it first started.
Event attendees ate food catered by students in the culinary arts program at Bradley Central High School under the direction of their teacher, Richmond Flowers. Biscuits, gravy, fruit, yogurt and eggs were on the menu — not waste.
Maskew said she is just as confused about why the event was originally called the Solid Waste Breakfast, but the board has elected to keep the name over the years.
“I know that we have gotten a lot of recognition for it,” Maskew said. “I really don’t know how the name came about.”