PORTLAND, Ore. (FNS) -- A pilot program that converts produce waste into garden and farming mulch has helped supermarkets in the Portland division of Safeway, Pleasanton, Calif., reduce their solid-waste tonnage.
Safeway spokeswoman Brigit Flanagan confirmed the retailer's participation in the pilot, but declined to provide details until the program is applied regionally.
At the supermarkets, produce is trimmed back into the waxed boxes in which it arrived. Spoiled produce is added, along with leftover non-greasy bakery products and floral discards. These are hauled to Safeway's distribution warehouse in Clackamas County, Oregon. There, they are compacted in 40-yard boxes, to make cost-effective loads.
"Getting food out of the waste stream is our next important waste-reduction step," said Jennifer Erickson, waste-reduction planner for Metro, a three-county Portland area service government. She added that the City of Portland is considering an ordinance that would require separating edible waste from general trash.
Erickson said more than 1,000 tons of Safeway waste have been composted since the pilot began in January 1997. In the first month of the trial, one store reduced its solid-waste tonnage 53%, and the 10 stores that had the largest tonnage of waste shipment at the start of the program showed an average 36% reduction one month into the trial program.
The Metro-sponsored project involves Safeway and Waste Management Inc., Oak Brook, Ill., which hauls garbage 140 miles from the city to a regional landfill.
Waste Management, the prime partner in the contract, signed Safeway as a materials source because its stores were already backhauling waste to a central warehouse for disposal.
A total of 80 to 120 tons per month are now being composted, including the waxed boxes. An extension of Safeway's contract, which expires this month, is being negotiated now, said Metro's Erickson.
Ed Lyons, director of industrial engineering at Safeway, was quoted in a local business publication as saying "We're very pleased with the collection and hauling aspect of the program." The company is watching the program's feasibility, he added. "We have to make sure it does pencil out."
Composted mulch is in high demand by Oregon's large horticultural industry, and has also been proposed as a soil amendment in some of the dry wheatlands of Oregon's inner basins and plateaus.