SCARBOROUGH, Maine -- Hannaford Bros. here has installed a state-of-the-art composting system at its Nashua, N.H., store. It is designed to compost organic waste on site, thereby cutting disposal costs while creating marketable, composted soil.
In a prepared statement, Hannaford said the system, called "Zola" (Greek for earth), is projected to reduce the cost of waste product disposal; the typical cost ranges from $40,000 to $60,000 per year, per store, enough to generate a three- to five-year return on investment in the system, the company said.
According to Hannaford, the Nashua store is the first supermarket in the country to install a continuous feed, in-vessel organic waste reduction system. The company said that approximately 85% to 90% of the waste generated by supermarkets is organic material that can be composted.
Zola, whose trade name is the Super C-3 (or computer controlled composting) Waste Reduction System, is supplied by Nature's Soil, based in Nashua.
Zola is a fully contained waste reduction system capable of composting a ton of organic waste a day through continuous feed cycles, said Kathy Leech, project coordinator for sales and marketing at Nature's Soil.
Because the unit composts on site, it reduces waste hauling and disposal costs while creating soil that can be sold to nurseries, municipalities and other entities, helping to offset the cost of the unit, said Hannaford.
In its statement, Hannaford also said that the Zola unit is "quiet, requires less than half the energy, less maintenance and has twice the life of traditional trash compactors." Its design "eliminates odors and pests."
Leech sees composting as a growing waste-reduction strategy for supermarkets. "In essence, supermarkets, which work on such a small profit margin, are looking for ways to decrease their waste [because of] skyrocketing hauling and tipping fees," she said. "They're looking for a way to take a huge chunk of the waste material out of their waste disposal, and that is organics."
With landfills reaching capacity, composting is also an environmentally friendly option that falls in line with past Hannaford initiatives, the chain said. The Nashua store already recycles 85% of its waste -- including cardboard, plastics, paper and organics -- while the chainwide rate is 65%.
The Nashua store unveiled Zola last month at a ceremony attended by state and local politicians. The store is the first supermarket to use the system, though it has been on the market for three years, Leech said. Nature's Soil has worked with Hannaford for over 18 months in various other composting programs as well.
At 40 feet in length, Zola is a midsized unit, equipped with three internal chambers. Waste is fed into the unit and shredded and sized before reaching the first of the chambers. The second chamber reduces the volume and weight of the waste before it is fed through the third chamber and into an outboard dumpster. The drum of the unit rotates to continually aerate and mature the compost. The composter can be scaled up or down in size to fit the footprint of a store.
According to Leech, Hannaford, which has 116 stores, is in the budgeting stage to install Zola units at other stores. "They're running the numbers and plan to place a second round of orders once the efficiency is calculated," she said. (Hannaford declined to comment.) Other supermarket chains have also expressed interest in the technology, she added.