Weis Markets gets serious on sustainability - The Packer

Weis Markets gets serious on sustainability

02/08/2013 09:50:00 AM
Chuck Robinson

Chuck Robinson, Assistant Copy ChiefChuck Robinson, Assistant Copy ChiefWeis Markets has hit on a great way to promote the measures the company takes to push sustainability.

The Sunbury, Pa.-based retailer this spring plans to sell bags of Weis Choice Compost. It is made from the retailer’s own waste stream.

There is a great article at Biocycle.net about Weis Markets’ efforts to compost its waste and reduce what is loaded into a garbage truck.

Weis Markets has 163 stores in five Northeastern states (Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsyvania and West Virginia). In 2009, it started a composting pilot program at nine stores.

Since then, the program has blossomed. In 2013, the company plans to add 40 stores to its composting program, bringing the total to 50.

The system involves 15 totes stationed in departments at each store that are filled with up to 200 pounds of waste: produce; bakery waste; deli meats and salads; floral plants; cut flowers; coffee grounds and filters. They are kept in coolers until pickup.

The system involves a partnership with a composting company, which has had to invest in new composting facilities near the stores involved.

Weis compost programCourtesy Weis MarketsThis program works in concert with a food donation program, recycling programs and a deal for rendering waste from the meat department.

Creating this program is quite a feat for a company, but then the company’s mission statement includes the phrase “being good stewards of our environment.” That shows an uncommon commitment to going green.

This is no pie-in-the-sky salute to sustainability. The program had to make sense in terms of dollars and cents, so the cost of operations at each store before a composting program was started had to be taken into account.

The reduced cost of hauling off the trash had to offset the cost of the composting program. A waste disposal fee structure encourages Weis managers to make sure compostable waste gets diverted from the other waste.

Serendipity delivered some unintended beneficial consequences from the program. Store managers became more aware of the amount of food being wasted. Also, there are fewer odors because the compostable material is kept in coolers until pickup day.

Weis Markets isn’t the only retailer taking a stab at composting. The Washington Post reported online that Safeway has 125 stores along the East Coast that participate in a composting program.

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