Q&A with Mark Calmes

Vice president, environmental, Office of Compliance and Ethics

and Linda Childers

Environmental engineer

In 2011, ADM added waste-management to its other principal sustainability focus areas – energy and emissions, water and supply-chain integrity. What prompted the addition?

Mark Calmes: We’ve had a waste-management working group operating under the auspices of ADM’s Sustainability Steering Committee and Environmental Leadership Team for some time now, so this really isn’t so much an addition; it’s a reflection of progress made to date.  Based on the findings of a pilot project we instituted at several North American plants, and on our experience working to develop a companywide waste-management standard, the SSC determined it was possible to formalize a commitment to reduce waste by 15 percent on a per-unit-of-production basis by the year 2020. 

Can you talk about the pilot project?  What did it demonstrate, and how will it be used to chart a course for effective waste-management going forward?

Linda Childers: In 2009, we developed a companywide waste-management standard intended for global implementation.  It covered nearly all of our processing facilities — those that produce greater than 10 tons of waste per year. Before moving ahead with implementation, though, the SSC directed us to conduct a pilot project to fine-tune the standard, work out any bugs, and ensure it could be effectively integrated into the facilities’ operations. 

What we did was work with our operations teams to choose eight North American facilities of various sizes to be part of the pilot program. Each plant looked at the various waste streams its operations generate, categorized these by amount generated and disposal method, and developed a management plan to identify improvements. The plants then determined expected reductions in waste and cost savings that could be realized by implementing these improvements.

It’s important to recognize that these results represent only a small cross-section of our North American operations — we can’t extrapolate from this data alone to draw conclusions about all ADM facilities.  But what the pilot showed was that nearly all of the waste generated by the eight participating plants — 99.5 percent of it, to be exact — is non-hazardous, 57 percent is reused as-is, without additional processing, and about 9 percent is recycled. What’s more, three plants participating in the study were able to reduce, reuse or recycle 70 percent or more of their total waste streams during the year-long pilot study.

How did the pilot program impact the waste-management standard you’d developed earlier on?

Childers: The results have prompted us to modify the original standard in ways we think will improve its effectiveness when it’s rolled out to all of our global processing operations.  We’ve also developed an online data-collection mechanism that makes gathering and recording waste information simpler for our facilities. 

Do you expect that implementation of a global, companywide standard will be challenging from an operational standpoint?

Calmes: It shouldn’t be. The pilot program in the U.S. has shown that a properly crafted standard should be readily implementable. In Europe, we’re required by law in most countries to have waste-management programs in place, so almost all of our European plants are already focused on this issue as a matter of course.  In Latin America, we’ve had successful, voluntary programs in the past that should be a catalyst for a formal program.  So when we roll out the global standard, we don’t anticipate that we’ll encounter many issues.

Childers: We already have a large number of plants that have been reusing and recycling their waste for years; they just haven’t been quantifying the volumes precisely. In many regions, these practices are deeply, culturally ingrained.  What we’ll be able to do by providing a concrete standard and data-collection mechanism is to enhance the work they’re already doing.

ADM has long prided itself on making the greatest possible use of the crops it processes at its plants.  Has this made the process of developing a global waste-management standard simpler overall?

Calmes: It’s true: For cost reasons alone in our competitive business, we’ve always tried to utilize every piece of every grain, seed, and bean we can. So in my opinion, we’ve always done a good job of minimizing waste. Now, we’re entering a whole new era of being more conscious of the environment, which should enable us to take our efforts to the next level.

Mark Calmes joined ADM in 1974 as a plant production assistant. Today, he is responsible for ensuring the company’s compliance with environmental laws and regulations worldwide, and for evaluating environmental issues and formulating strategies that help shape ADM policies, standards and practices. In the intervening 37 years, he has served as a plant manager; as director, corporate loss prevention; as vice president, environmental engineering services; and as the company’s vice president of corporate environmental, health, and safety. He holds a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering from the University of Wisconsin.

Linda Childers joined ADM in 2007 and specializes in environmental due diligence, remediation site management, and water- and waste-management. Prior to joining ADM, she was an environmental manager at Cargill. Earlier in her career, she served at various times as a project manager for a civil engineering firm, as a project manager for the Broward County (Florida) Department of Natural Resource Protection, and as a manager of corporate and external affairs with Florida Power & Light. She holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering from the University of Florida and is a registered professional engineer.


Childers (left) with Calmes: “We’ve always tried to utilize every piece of every grain, seed, and bean we can to minimize waste,” Calmes says. “Now, we’re taking our efforts to the next level.”

Bios: Mark Calmes and Linda Childers
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