Hannaford Bros. and Shaw's Supermarkets are among the latest supermarket chains experimenting with novel ways to reduce the volume of perishables waste bound for expensive landfills.
Shaw's, East Bridgewater, Mass., has started testing extractors that squeeze all the liquid out of produce before the leftover pulp is sent to composting facilities. Hannaford Bros., Scarborough, Maine, began adding meat renderings from one Massachusetts store to their compost-bound produce waste.
“It was a test with the composting facility, to make sure the meat composted fine and there was no odor,” said Megan Hellstedt, environmental affairs specialist with Hannaford Bros.
The initiative also gives Hannaford a better, less expensive way to handle meat scraps. Now that many supermarkets are cutting less meat in-store, traditional rendering programs are fewer and farther between, Hellstedt said.
“It's really hard to get the company to come and collect rendering waste, and it is getting expensive.”
About 10% of Hannaford units have programs in which produce, edible grocery and deli waste is collected and sent to local composting facilities. Hannaford pays a fee for pickup, as well as at the composting facility, but it's still less expensive than what it would cost to dump the waste at landfills, and anything that reduces the weight of trucks going to landfills benefits grocers, said John Connolly, a consultant to supermarkets and the government on reducing waste.
“It all adds up when they can simplify operations and the number of vendors that come to the store,” Connolly said.
At Shaw's, stores are using 30 extractors, made in Germany, to grind produce that can't be sold, squeeze out the water and dump the dried pulp into bag-lined garbage cans. The byproduct is then made available free to customers or anyone who wants it.
“One [store] associate in Keene, N.H., who has a sideline landscaping business, uses it,” said Judy Chong, a Shaw's spokeswoman.
Two dozen stores in the chain participate in a separate program with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection, where unsaleable organics are offered as compost directly to farmers.