April 2006

Incentives for Massachusetts grocery stores available

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) launched a new program in partnership with the supermarket industry. The program rewards full-service grocery stores with regulatory relief if they voluntarily develop sustainable programs for reusing organics and other wastes instead of throwing them away.

Known as Supermarket Recycling Program Certification (SRPC), the initiative has grown from an ongoing cooperative effort between MassDEP and the Massachusetts Food Association (MFA), an industry group which represents supermarkets and other food stores, to develop innovative methods for helping supermarkets recycle and compost more of the waste they generate.

In August 2005, MassDEP and MFA entered into a partnership to advance recycling at full-service grocery stores across the state by expanding their existing Supermarket Organics Recycling Network (SORN). The new voluntary certification program takes this collaboration to the next level.

Organics – including spoiled and out-of-date food, cardboard, plants, soil, and renderings account for more than three-quarters of the waste generated by a typical supermarket. Recycling and composting that material instead of throwing it away can save a store between $20,000 and $40,000 per year, on average, in avoided disposal costs.

Most supermarkets have been recycling cardboard for some time, but SORN has helped 62 stores increase their diversion of organic wastes to composting facilities and animal feeding operations. These supermarkets, including Big Y, Roche Bros., Shaw’s/Star, Stop & Shop, and Whole Foods – have in the last year diverted more than 10,000 tons of food scraps and other organic materials from landfills and combustion facilities.

Full-service grocery stores participating in the new voluntary program will not only save money, but also improve their compliance with existing Massachusetts waste disposal bans. Massachusetts currently bans nine items from the waste stream, including paper, cardboard, and glass.

Among other things, participating supermarkets will need to provide for comprehensive recycling of cardboard, plastic wrap, shrink-wrap, and organic material. MassDEP will then exempt waste loads generated by these stores from routine comprehensive waste ban inspections for paper; cardboard; glass, metal and plastic containers; and leaves and yard waste. Each supermarket that applies for SRPC certification will need to meet and maintain specific recycling and composting criteria to retain that status.

MassDEP has banned a number of materials from disposal in Massachusetts’ landfills and combustion facilities to promote recycling and composting. Businesses that do not set up programs to divert banned items from their waste run the risk of having their loads rejected at disposal or transfer facilities, paying additional handling fees, or facing enforcement penalties.

For additional information about the program, visit mass.gov/dep/recycle/supermkt.htm.


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