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Our Social Responsibility Stories

Water works: Summit project reduces thousands of plastic bottles

The health of the environment affects everyone, and it will take all of us — working in ways big and small — to help protect and preserve the environment for future generations. So, while Summit Materials is proud to have set corporate sustainability goals (e.g., achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050), we know that change truly happens at the ground level, with the people who work at our sites and in our communities every day.

That’s why we launched our first “Sustainability Challenge” to get all of our employees involved and see what small changes we can make to improve sustainability efforts — all while having a little fun and drumming up some friendly competition.

Our innovative employees did not disappoint.

Parting with plastic: Summit H2O project saves approximately 15,500 bottles annually 

The team at Summit subsidiary HAMM Inc. recognized they were using approximately one pallet worth of plastic water bottles every month and a half, or roughly 15,500 bottles of water per year. They also used three bags of ice per day in the summer and one bag per day in the winter, adding up to approximately 520 bags per year.

In an effort to reduce waste and plastic consumption, the team installed a filtered water machine to replace the pallets of bottled water. They also installed an ice machine to eliminate the need to buy individual bags of ice. There is now a bulk filling station at the ice machine and a hot and cold disperser in the office. The switch not only means thirsty employees now have immediate access to hot or cold water to keep them hydrated, but it also resulted in a cost savings of more than $4,000 annually.

The project was led by Brett Mason, plant manager of HAMM’s Lotawana quarry, based in Lake Lotawana, MO. In addition to other sustainability initiatives across the company, this effort highlights the ways in which everyone can play a role in protecting the environment, and how small changes can make a big impact.

“I believe one thing that makes Summit unique is a dedication to social responsibility that permeates our business — from many of our front-line leaders to our mid-level managers to our leadership team,” said Karli Anderson, Summit’s chief environmental, social and governance officer.

Combatting the environmental impact of plastic water bottles

The results of the water filtration project are a step in the right direction, given the damage disposable consumer plastics can have on the environment. According to nonprofit environmental organization, plastics production increased 200% between 1952 and 2020, resulting in 300 million tons of plastic waste each year — 60% of which ends up in landfills or the natural environment. 

The more than 60 million disposable plastic water bottles thrown away in the U.S. each day are a significant contributor to environmental pollution, according to Pat Franklin, executive director of the nonprofit Container Recycling Institute.

“The price consumers are paying for the bottled water itself pales in comparison to the price they’re paying for the environmental consequences of manufacturing, transport and disposal of the bottles,” writes Franklin. “Transport and disposal of the bottles adds to the resources used, and water extraction — which is concentrated in communities where bottling plants are located — adds to the strain bottled water puts on our ecosystem.”

Summit’s commitment to corporate sustainability

At Summit Materials, we are taking steps to establish ourselves as a leader in environmental stewardship. We reaffirmed that core corporate value in a 2021 comprehensive improvement plan known as our Elevate Summit Strategy. As part of that plan, we have established what we believe to be ambitious but attainable goals in the areas of carbon emissions reduction, land reclamation, fuel efficiency, water usage reduction and others.

We strive to be the most socially responsible integrated construction materials solution provider, and we believe that with everyone working together — in ways big and small — we can leave the land better than we found it and create a more sustainable future for everyone.

To learn more about Summit’s corporate sustainability program, download our 2021 ESG Report or contact us for more information.