American Family Insurance having success being green

25-year-old recycling program among most aggressive in country
American Family Insurance having success being green

American Family Insurance started a simple recycling program at its national headquarters in 1989. In the 25 years since, the company has developed it into one of the most aggressive programs in the country in diverting waste from landfills.

“We just feel like it is about doing the right thing, and we pledge to protect the dreams of our customers. And we do that in part by being supportive of the communities in which they live and we feel this is one way in which we can do that,” said Maggie Becker, facilities program analyst for American Family Insurance.

With nearly 3,000 employees working at ther national headquarters, a significant amount of waste is generated. Currently, American Family Insurance is able to divert 78 percent of that waste from landfills. It has an expansive recycling program but also collects organic items, which are then sent to a composting facility in Oshkosh. Their goal is to reach a 90 percent rate of waste diverted from landfills.

Doing so is also a good business decision.

“In Madison, the city landfill is full and our waste actually gets hauled to Rockford, Ill., so for us it is about the carbon footprint of that waste being hauled all the way to Rockford. It is also about the rising costs of landfill fees. So as the landfills get full, the fees are going up and so it is really about mitigating some of those costs. And for us, this program is about cost-neutral,” Becker said.

While 90 percent of waste can be diverted from landfills, the few items that cannot fall under the three Fs: foil, foam and film. Things like aluminum foil, Styrofoam and film wraps still get sent to landfills.

American Family Insurance has, however, found a way of keeping the Styrofoam out of the landfills. They identified a company in Middleton that utilizes plastic foam, turning it into picture frames.