Food Waste Composting at Larrys Markets

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Brant Rogers, Environmental Affairs Manager, Larry's Markets PM Network, February 1995, pp. 32-33

The food waste composting project at Larry's Markets became one of the country's first when it began in the fall of 1991. The project is part of the company's comprehensive environmental program that includes recycling, waste reduction, energy conservation, water management, environmental landscaping, environmental product evaluation, community project support, and more.

Food waste composting was proposed in mid-1991 as a potential cost saving measure and method of reducing the company's impact on the natural environment. According to 1991 waste audits, 3000 tons of byproducts _ (e.g., garbage, cardboard, food waste, plastics, glass, etc.) were produced by the company's five stores during a typical year. Of this, over 700 tons per year were estimated to be compostable, and most of the compostable material was produced in the stores' produce and floral departments.

The project's mission was to capture all of the produce and floral department byproducts for composting by late 1993. Because food waste composting projects were virtually unknown, one of the project's first objectives was to find project team members to haul and compost Larry's byproducts.

Another fundamental objective of the project was to have the composting function well within the normal day-to-day activities of the company. To accomplish this, the project team included management staff of all stores.

As full-scale composting began in early 1992, the volume of material grew rapidly. In 1992 about 350 tons were composted. In 1993 almost 700 tons were composted. As the amount of material composted grew, the amount of material going to landfills decreased proportionately. In 1991, 2,000 tons of garbage were produced. In 1992 about 1,250 tons were produced, and in 1993 about 1,050 tons were produced. The proportion of the byproduct stream going to landfill declined significantly from 69 percent in 1991 to 47 percent in 1992 and to 36 percent in 1993.

In addition, Larry's began using the finished compost for landscaping. A new Larry's store in Tukwila, Washington, which opened in July 1993, used the compost in the topsoil of its large landscape. Also, Larry's B.I.O. Scapes landscaping staff uses the compost on the company's other landscapes, including an organic apple orchard and herb garden at its Kirkland, Washington, store.

As a result of the project, Larry's had reached a 64 percent recycling rate, exceeding the 50 percent goal for King County in 1995 and also Washington State's 60 percent goal for the year 2000. Also, the project has saved the company over $20,000 per year in garbage fees and has been a source of

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f~l Composting WJk Cardboard Recycling | Garbage []TQ Rendering | Other Recycling pride to employees and customers who are sensitive to environmental problems. Larry's received numerous letters, customer comments, and awards from local government and environmental groups for its efforts.

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