Supermarket Organic Waste Recycling: 4 World-Class Examples

The United States generates nearly 40 million tons of food waste every year, of which ten percent comes from grocery stores and supermarkets. This comes at a cost of nearly $10 billion to the US economy and is a major source of the greenhouse gas emissions that contribute towards climate change.

Many European nations have made moves to divert or prevent grocery store organic waste. In 2017, France became the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food. Instead, it forces them to donate surplus food to charities and food banks.

Meanwhile in the US, five states and several localities have passed waste bans or waste recycling laws for food waste. Connecticut, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont structure their laws as organic waste bans, while California has instituted a waste recycling law that requires commercial generators of organic waste to either compost or anaerobically digest organic waste.

As a result, supermarkets are searching for strategies to comply with the new and emerging regulations, and to incorporate food waste recycling into their waste management programs.

Check out these examples of grocery stores that have created impressive food waste prevention and diversion programs that might serve as inspirations for your business!

Whole Foods: Working Towards Zero Waste

In its latest Green Mission report, Whole Foods reported that many of their stores have achieved a diversion from landfill of more than 80 percent, with some approaching and exceeding the 90 percent level that the EPA defines as ‘zero waste’.

In the Northeast, every store has a program for usable perishable food, which is diverted to their prepared foods, cut fruit, or bakery departments to provide nutritious ingredients for salsa, muffins, coleslaw, and other produce.

Every store has community food donation programs and composting as a critical part of their waste diversion program. In the South, Whole Foods is practicing full circle composting, where compostable materials are hauled from the stores to a site where it is made into compost that many local farmers use. This relationship keeps 25 tons of organic materials per week out of local landfills and the compost is then used to grow the vegetables they sell in their stores.

It’s important to be aware of the opportunities in your community that can help you to implement organic waste recycling. Partnering with food banks or local farms can aid your business in its endeavor to be environmentally friendly, and can also positively impact your relationship with your community. Look for local opportunities to implement organic waste recycling to help foster environmental awareness and local collaboration.

HEB: Pro Compost, Anti Landfill

HEB has established a series of Organic Diversion Programs, which have diverted more than 50 million pounds of organics from landfills, by composting it or turning it into animal feed. HEB discovered that sending organic waste for composting can cost far less than landfill access, meaning that diversion from landfill not only improves their environmental stewardship, but also saves a significant amount of money from their waste management costs.

Researching local composting programs that turn organic waste into fertilizer or animal feed will save your business money by eliminating the cost of waste removal, while positioning your business as a sustainable, green operation.

Tesco: Partnering with Charities

In 2017, the biggest supermarket chain in Britain, Tesco, rolled out a national Community Food Connection program that provides millions of meals to people in need and makes significant progress in eliminating the waste of edible food from their stores.

The company uses an app to inform partner charities of the amount of extra food available at the end of each day, and donates it to those who can collect it. They now donate to over 2,400 charities and community groups across the UK, including homeless shelters, substance abuse rehabilitation services, after-school clubs, foodbanks and domestic violence hostels.

Partnering with charities is an excellent way to eliminate organic waste from landfill, and is environmentally more beneficial than composting or anaerobic digestion. It also positively impacts your company’s reputation, and your bottom line!

Daily Table: A New Kind of Grocery Store

Founded by Doug Rauch, former president of Trader Joe’s, Daily Table opened its first not-for-profit retail store in Dorchester, Boston in 2015. Their mission is to provide healthy, low-price groceries to low-income urban areas. The company works with a large network of growers, supermarkets, manufacturers, and other suppliers who donate their excess, healthy food to them.

Their meals are priced to compete with fast food options, making it easier for families to eat healthier within their means, in order to reduce both the effects of poor eating habits caused by challenging economics, and the impact that food waste has on our environment.

While Daily Table might not be available near your business, there are many other options available for you to donate your unspoiled leftovers to. Whether that’s a food bank, low-income grocery store, or elsewhere, food donation is an excellent way to reduce food waste.

What This Means for your Business

Supermarket organics recycling has become a trending topic. While implementing a food waste diversion program may require extra time and effort, it has been proven to pay back financially and reputationally when set up correctly.

For example, organic waste composting costs approximately $25/ton, while traditional landfill fees average about $66/ton. Using these numbers, if a company like Tesco creates around 33,000 tons of food waste per year, then organic waste management can save over $1.3 million in waste disposal expenses.

In addition, food waste donation and recycling play an important role in enhancing a company’s sustainability and corporate social responsibility image.

How National Waste Associates can help

At National Waste Associates, our waste and recycling services are tailored for businesses with multiple locations. We understand that managing food waste is complicated in today’s marketplace, which is why we design customized minimization and recycling plans based on the individual requirements at each location.

We conduct an initial assessment of each site’s current practices, then set goals to reduce the quantity of food waste, developing a sustainable approach to allow for continuous reduction of volumes.

For more information on food waste recycling and to learn how National Waste Associates can reduce your waste costs with our professionally managed services and recycling programs, call 1-888-692-5005 x6 or email

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