Ohio grocers are trying to do something good with their fresh food waste.
About 10 small and large grocers in the state, including Kroger, Giant Eagle and Dorothy Lane Market, will soon start a pilot project with the Ohio Grocers Association to recycle their organic waste.
Still in the early stages, the OGA is trying to find a waste hauler that can pick up organic waste such as produce, meat and baked goods.
“A trash management firm may not pick up these organics to take them to the composting facility. We are trying to determine whether it is going to be a composting facility or a niche hauler or someone else who is willing to do it,” said Tonya Woodruff, director of the Ohio Grocers Association Foundation.
And the service is needed. About 75% of the waste that supermarkets produce is organic, according to the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, which awarded the OGA Foundation a grant to put together a composting handbook for grocery stores in the state. The handbook will include recycling companies and their contact information.
“It sounds like a good idea that could save people money or at least keep costs the same,” said Ed Flohre, director of a Dorothy Lane Market store in Springboro, Ohio.
Still, Flohre is trying to find out how feasible and accessible composting will be.
“The closest [compost hauler] to us is in Columbus, and it would have to get enough stores together to make it worthwhile for a pickup,” Flohre says.
The OGA Foundation is “very close” to starting a pilot project with the state's grocers, according to John Connolly, a consultant and former Hannaford Bros. executive working with OGA on the project.
“We're working on the economic components, to get a cost that is equal to or less than the net cost for trash,” Connolly said.
A number of individual retailers have successfully turned their fresh food waste into compost, which they then bag and sell to consumers. Waste experts say these types of programs not only reduce disposal fees, they publicize the chain's environmental consciousness and help educate consumers directly on the benefits of food waste composting.