NORTHFIELD, ILL. — Kraft Foods announced it’s starting the new year 150 million lbs. (68 million kilograms) leaner — having eliminated enough material from its supply chain since 2005 to exceed the company’s packaging reduction goal two years ahead of schedule.

“Our global team of employees is doing a phenomenal job creating opportunities to reduce packaging material while assuring convenience and safety,” said Jean Spence, executive vice-president, research, development and quality. “We’ve invented a tool to help us design more efficiently. And we’re finding smarter source materials, reducing our footprint and thinking differently about packaging end of life. We’re sharing ideas, challenging and motivating one another, so this is truly a collaborative team effort.”

Kraft Foods developed the Packaging Eco-Calculator, which is a tool that helps developers create efficient and optimized packaging. The greatest opportunity to influence the environmental impact is based on a package's size early in the design phase.

Oscar Mayer Deli Creations’ packaging was redesigned with 30% less paperboard, which is expected to keep 1.2 million lbs. (more than 500,000 kilograms) of packaging out of landfills per year. Kraft officials say consumers like the new package because it’s smaller, convenient and takes up less shelf space, while the amount of product remains the same.

Although design matters, the type of materials used also plays a role. Kraft Foods is discovering ways to increase the recycled content and recyclability of packaging for its products.

Kraft Foods recycles nearly 90% of its global manufacturing waste. So it makes sense to help consumers boost their own recycling rates and deal with packaging that isn’t recyclable, because less packaging in landfills means less environmental impact, the company said.

Consumer recycling rates in the U.S. are only 33%, but in other parts of the world those numbers are closer to 70%, Kraft claims. To help increase recycling rates in the U.S., Kraft Foods began partnering with RecycleBank, a company that rewards consumers for recycling, in 2008. The more recycling a consumer does, the more reward points they have to redeem — and the less waste that goes to landfill.

Kraft officials said they’re glad their company is a part of RecycleBank’s success — as it has helped people recycle more than 400,000 tons of material, saving the equivalent of 4.3 million trees and 280,000 gallons of oil.