October 2005

Massachusetts groups work to spur recycling in grocery stores

The Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) and the Massachusetts Food Association (MFA), a supermarket industry group, announced that they have signed a memorandum of understanding that will encourage grocery stores across the state to increase their recycling participation – particularly in the composting of such items as spoiled fruits and vegetables, floral and deli wastes, and waxed cardboard.

The agreement outlines a collaborative effort between the state agency and the industry group to advance recycling at supermarkets across Massachusetts by expanding their existing Supermarket Organics Recycling Network (SORN).

MassDEP will do its part by providing technical assistance to stores that want to start new programs and developing a voluntary certification program to provide regulatory relief incentives for supermarkets that establish and maintain comprehensive recycling programs.

“This program is beneficial to everyone in Massachusetts,” said MassDEP commissioner Robert W. Golledge Jr. “Supermarkets save money, recyclers receive a steady stream of clean organic materials so they can produce good compost to sell, and the environment is better off because the more we recycle, the less we need new waste disposal facilities.”

Food and bulk-packaging wastes account for up to 90 percent of the material that supermarkets have traditionally thrown away. The state is working to divert these items from disposal because they are easy to recycle and valuable to recyclers. Organic wastes, for example, can be processed into nutrient-rich soil products.

The 57 grocery stores that participated in SORN last year – including Big Y, Roche Bros., Shaw’s/Star, Stop & Shop, and Whole Foods supermarkets – composted and recycled between 60 and 75 percent of their waste, diverting 8,900 tons of organics, 26,200 tons of cardboard, and more than 1,000 tons of plastic from disposal, saving an average of more than $45,000 per store in the process.

Participation has since grown to 62 supermarkets. MassDEP and MFA hope at least 100 Massachusetts grocery stores will be recycling organics by next year. Their ultimate goal is for all 400 supermarkets in the state to have active recycling programs in place within three years.

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