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Bronco nears ‘zero waste’ facility goal

Bronco Winery of Ceres has a goal of soon diverting all of its waste away from the landfill.

It’s almost there.

The company, one of the largest wineries and the largest vineyard owner in the United States, calculates that 99.7 percent of its waste is recycled or reused. That earned the attention of the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC), which dropped by a January sales meeting to give Bronco a Zero Waste Gold Facility certification.

The group’s founder and executive director, Sandy Barger, presented a plaque to winery Production Manager Robert Hall and owners Joseph and Frank Franzia.

Bronco has reduced its stream from its facility operations to the landfill by 50 percent in the past decade.

“We have been chipping away at waste for decades,” said Hall.

The winery ended up only sending 131 tons of waste to the landfill in 2014 and 109 in 2015. That’s small when you consider it generated 56,880 tons of waste that year. Hall said that in 2014 Bronco diverted 350.1 tons of metal, 58 tons of plastic, 130.33 tons of fiberglass, 27 tons of wood and 51, 460 tons of pomace, which is what is left over from a grape crushed to make wine – including grape skin, stems and seeds.

“We ship that out to another facility which further distills grape seed oil and then from there it goes to cattle feed,” said Hall.

Over 4,200 tons of diatomaceous earth, used as a filter agent, was also reused.

Barger said most breweries and wineries were recycling but “what Bronco Wines is doing is really drilling down to make sure all the other stuff is reduced, reused or recycled.”

Bronco has placed out color-coded containers for the approximately 300 employees in Ceres to drop in cans and bottles with a California Redemption Value (CRV) which is then recycled for cash that goes to the U.S. Marine Corp’s Toys for Tots program. Foam cups are also not made available to employees.

The company collapses wooden pallets and sends them back to the supplier and reuses boxes and bags. It also purchases remanufactured pallets and fixes broken ones. Ones that cannot be repaired are chipped into mulch.

“We reuse all that we can – there’s really no limit to it,” said Hall. “We give the employees the tools to make it a success and I get to dive into the dumpster and see where we are failing,” said Hall. “I take my phone out there and send a photo to the manager or go talk to them. It’s worked.”

Composting is the next step. The company now strives to do business with vendors which use recycled materials or reusable containers.

Fred Franzia has said he wants all of Bronco’s facilities – in Napa, Sonoma, Madera and Escalon – to also become zero waste certified.

Barger said Bronco is miles ahead of two new state laws that are mandating that businesses recycle. AB 341 is requiring companies to be at 75 percent diversion and AB 1826 calls for all businesses to start composting all food scraps and greenery.

“It’s really not about recycling,” said Barger. “It’s about reducing, reducing, reducing some more and reusing until it falls apart and then recycling it. But most importantly putting it in a state where they can be remanufactured and that’s what businesses like Bronco are finding out is these are commodities. So diatomaceous earth, if you want to know what it is, go to Home Depot or Lowe’s as they sell it and make tons of money off of it.”

She said her group’s goal is to see businesses “not bury and burn jobs. Any time that we’re sending things to landfills and to incineration, we’re destroying our economy and burning and burying jobs. So our goal is to get these materials back into recycle and reuse them and create more jobs and save energy and water. By recycling you can save 75 percent of the energy and the water.”