Wegmans Food Markets expanded its Zero Waste program to five store locations following a successful one-store pilot in Canandaigua, New York. The phased rollout involves taking measurable steps to improve recycling rates and minimize store-level waste, according to the company.
The regional grocery store chain headquartered in Rochester, New York, launched the pilot program in 2016. Wegmans is working with cloud-based waste and recycling solutions provider Rubicon Global to eliminate all forms of waste at its stores. The chain has committed to reducing food loss and waste by 50% by 2030.
Currently the pilot store in Canandaigua has a recycling rate of 82.6%. The five newest stores added to the program — three in New York state, one in Massachusetts, and one in Pennsylvania — are averaging around 73%, the company says.
Wegmans participates in the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge for organizations and businesses. The EPA encourages participants to follow its Food Recovery Hierarchy to prioritize actions around preventing and diverting food waste. Accordingly, Wegmans says they use less-than-perfect produce and slightly blemished food in their culinary operations to minimize waste at the source.
Local food pantries and food banks pick up unsaleable perishable food items from Wegmans stores throughout the week, according to the company. In 2017, the grocery chain donated 14.5 million pounds of perishable and non-perishable food.
Food scraps also get diverted from landfills by getting offered up as animal feed. Currently 21 store locations work with local farmers and organizations such as zoos and animal rescues to provide them with animal feed, the company says.
In addition, food scraps from the stores get sent for anaerobic digestion to be turned into energy, or sent to be composted. Last year 70 Wegmans stores diverted 32.5 million pounds of food waste from landfills through the company’s programs.
Through partnerships with Rubicon, local food banks and pantries, and local haulers, Wegmans says it tracks all the food coming out of the stores, whether it becomes waste, gets donated, or is becomes livestock feed, compost, or goes to anaerobic digestion. Wegmans has more than 90 stores in six states and plans to add more stores to the Zero Waste program in the future.
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