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Choice Compost

Grocery chain adds ‘green waste’ bins to its recycling effort

Published: The Register-Guard, September 16, 2009

News: Business

By Sherri Buri Mc Donald

Most grocery stores take bottle returns and avidly recycle cardboard boxes, but Eugene-based Market of Choice is taking its recycling efforts a step or two further.

It recently began putting “green waste” bins behind some of its stores to channel aging produce and other compostable materials out of the landfill and eventually into people’s gardens.

In the next few years, the grocery chain plans to install the bins at all of its seven stores in Oregon. Then, to keep leftover food and compostable cups and containers out of the trash, Market of Choice will first teach and encourage its employees to recycle those items, and then invite customers in its dining areas to take part.

“I’ve worked in the grocery business for 30 years now, and I always thought we should be doing something like this,” said Scott Cook, Market of Choice’s sustainability coordinator.

“Not only is it the right thing to do, but the dumping fees for trash are a lot higher than they are for compostables,” he said.

Market of Choice’s green waste is hauled to Rexius, a Eugene landscaping materials company, where it is mixed with yard waste and turned into Rexius’s “garden compost” product, said Jack Hoeck, Rexius’s vice president of environmental services.

Market of Choice pays $24 a ton to drop off compostable material at Rexius, Hoeck said. That’s probably a third of what it would cost if they had dumped it in the trash, he said.

Already, Market of Choice has diverted 22½ tons of compostable material from the landfill since it installed a green waste bin at its Delta Oaks store in April, Cook said.

Three weeks ago, the company replaced two large composting tubs at its Willamette Street store with a 20-cubic-yard bin, boosting the store’s capacity for compostable material nearly seven times.

The south Eugene store had composted on a small scale for local gardens for the past decade.

The savings from composting on a bigger scale should be substantial, Cook said.

“We haven’t got a (trash) bill yet, but they were picking up every five days,” he said. “Now they’re picking up every 10 days. So half (as often), and I think it will only get better.”

It makes sense that wilting lettuce and leftover food should be composted to help grow more food, but not many local groceries do it.

“There’s several (markets) that are doing it to varying degrees — like Capella (Market),” Hoeck said. Capella is on Willamette Street in south Eugene.

But food waste is a very small percentage of the green waste that Rexius turns into compost, he said.

“There’s not a food waste collection system in place in Eugene,” Hoeck said. “People have to make individual arrangements with their haulers.”

Food waste could become a larger contributor, however, he said.“There’s a lot of interest in it within the community,” Hoeck said. “It’s pretty grass-roots, so you have people who are interested in doing the extra effort in sorting and collecting.”

Stores have to prevent contamination with materials such as plastic, he noted.

Market of Choice hopes its program will nudge other local businesses on the “green waste” bandwagon.“Everybody should be doing it,” Cook said.

Market of Choice’s program has no effect on its food donations to FOOD for Lane County’s Food Rescue Program. Only the items that can’t be consumed will be composted, Cook said.

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