Sustainability is more than a buzzword among produce suppliers in the Baltimore-Washington, D.C., area.

At the Maryland Wholesale Produce Market in Jessup, for example, recycling is a priority, said Gary Decker, market manager.

“We’ve tried to do a lot more recycling to keep up with the times,” he said.

Specifically, the market engages in organic waste recycling and composting, Decker said.

Market tenants have their own programs.

One tenant, Coosemans DC, has new fresh herb packaging designed specifically to cut back on the volume of plastic that ends up in landfills, said Lolo Mengel, CEO and partner with the company.


Coosemans’ partnerships

Coosemans is working with two companies that both work out of its warehouse to further aid this effort, she said.

One, growingSoul, is dedicated to educating the public about zero waste sustainable food systems that benefit the health of individuals, communities and the planet by bringing together business, non-profit and government sectors, Lengel said. 

Coosemans has donated space for growingSoul to sift through, process and redistribute 485,000 pounds of Coosemans’ seconds product to local food banks, churches, schools and soup kitchens in the area, Mengel said.

The company also has recycled 410,000 pounds of food waste to growers for feed and soil health, she said.

Coosemans DC’s other partnership is with Hungry Harvest, through which the latter can purchase seconds product from Coosemans and its suppliers. In addition, Coosemans provides space for storage and labor in its warehouse for packing 6,000-8,000 food boxes weekly, Mengel said.

For the last four years, Coosemans DC also has collaborated with the University of The District of Columbia’s CAUSES program, which offers “cutting edge academic programs in urban sustainability, water resources management, nutrition and dietetics, urban architecture and community planning,” Mengel said. 


Other programs

Jessup-based produce and seafood distributor G. Cefalu & Bro. Inc. has started to sell its scrap fish to a pet food manufacturer, said Larry Quinn, president.

Cefalu also has been working on a recycling program, Quinn said.

The company recently moved into a newly constructed building, he said.

A relatively new building has helped Jessup-based Lancaster Foods, said John Gates, president.

“We’re a (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) certified building, and we recycle and do a lot of different things,” Gates said.

Washington, D.C.-based Pete Pappas & Sons Inc. recycles and works to save electricity, said Gus Pappas, president.

“We switched to motion-activated LED lights. That’s helped with energy efficiency,” he said.

Landover, Md.-based Keany Produce Co. plans to hire a sustainability manager, said Roy Cargiulo, sales manager.

“It’s a big piece we have to respond to,” he said.