New Milford's Kimberly-Clark mill recently earned a corporate award for its efficiency.

The local plant learned April 22 it had won the Crystal Tree Leadership Award in Sustainability, the first K-C mill in North America to be so honored.

The award recognizes both manufacturing facilities and individuals achieving specific targets for energy efficiency, waste elimination and overall sustainable business practices.

In late 2013, the New Milford mill made upgrades to equipment which led to a 6 percent reduction in the tons of waste water treatment plant sludge produced.

There are currently several beneficial reuse options for sludge produced at the mill, and the local plant is investigating composting of the sludge.

Additionally, all wastes generated from the manufacturing process are landfill free.

During the summer of 2014, the mill further reduced its footprint on the environment when off-spec tissue boxes were diverted from the general trash to a recyclable waste stream.

According to Sonii Kollie, the mill's environmental coordinator, the facility attempts to follow the waste elimination hierarchy.

"We attempt to produce as little waste as possible," she said, "Once waste is generated, a beneficial reuse option is always considered."

In addition to all of the waste reduction projects, the New Milford facility also received the Crystal Tree award because of the improvements made by installing a combined heat and power (CHP) facility.

The facility uses clean burning, natural gas to provide all of the mill's electric and thermal power needs while generating additional power to sell to the grid.

In addition to providing the mill's energy needs, the $50 million CHP facility also has the ability to generate enough power to supply 35,000 homes in the region.

The installation of the CHP led to a significant reduction in the facility's greenhouse gas emissions.

According to the United States' EPA, CHP systems are 50 percent more efficient than traditional fossil-fuel power plants.

"Kimberly-Clark continues to engage and challenge our facilities to promote investments in sustainable projects," said mill manager Gary Wright. "In order to be caretakers of our future, and do the right for the environment, for our employees and for our community, New Milford mill will continue to invest in sustainability projects."