A pilot effort to convert produce and plants into compost that began June 4 at Sendik’s Germantown store has already recovered more than 7,600 pounds of compostable material, encouraging the owners of the grocery store chain to expand the program.
Sendik’s Food Markets and Waste Management announced Thursday that the , Grafton and West Bend would be joining the initiative this week, while stores in Elm Grove, Franklin, Mequon, New Berlin, Wauwatosa and Whitefish Bay will do so by Nov. 1.
The program should reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills by about 50 percent once fully implemented, co-owner Ted Balistreri said in a news release.
“Our customers want the best for their families and the best for Mother Earth, too,” he said. “Recycling is the right thing to do.”
Balistreri said Sendik’s stores already recycle cardboard and donate food to Feeding America of Eastern Wisconsin, leaving food and plant waste as the single largest byproduct of the grocer’s operations.
How Organics Recycling Works
Employees at the stores segregate unwanted produce and plants for recycling, including flowers, fruits and vegetables past their prime and trimmings from in-store food preparation. They drop those materials into designated organics carts for collection by Waste Management.
Waste Management is collecting the organic materials in a unique vehicle called a Rotopress, one of only four such units operating in North America, according to Waste Management spokeswoman Lynn Morgan.
Rotopress is ideally suited for collecting food waste, she said, because it is sealed to contain odors and liquid and has an internal rotor that continually moves the heavy material forward to ensure even weight distribution. Unlike typical waste collection vehicles that run on diesel, the Rotopress unit is powered by clean-burning natural gas.
The Rotopress delivers the material to Waste Management’s composting operation in Germantown, where Sendik’s material is mixed with yard debris from area communities in large piles, or windrows. As the windrows decompose, the mixture becomes a rich, uniform soil additive that Waste Management supplies to a leading lawn care company for sale to consumers.
“We’re on a mission to extract maximum value from the materials we handle,” Morgan said. “For this project, we’re tapping the latest clean-technology trucks to restore the ancient practice of using food byproducts to enrich soil.”