matter. Now they simply toss the bag into the large blue bins in the
stockroom dedicated for the Green Energy Facility.
“These are different bins than what we started with,” Zacharakus-Jutz says. “We went to a blue base so that it doesn’t get accidentally sent
out as a black pallet. We added a plastic liner that doesn’t break down
under the juicy materials and that stays more clean in the back of the
store.” He notes that each bin holds from 800 to 1,000 pounds of waste
and gets picked up daily.
Arriving at the digester, the bins are dumped into a hopper, which
feeds a masher. Similar to a giant blender, the masher uses hydraulic friction to separate the plastic packaging from organic matter.
Heavy organic materials that cannot be broken down are separated
and eventually sent to a waste-to-energy incinerator, while the plastics are recycled.
Water is added to the remaining organic material to make a “milk-
shake” to feed the anaerobic bacteria in the digester, and water use is
minimal. “All of the drains in this facility go into a sump and we pump
that water in and use it as batch water,” Zacharakus-Jutz says. “We are
only using a very small amount of potable water per day, and that is
only used for cleaning; the rest is all gray water.”
The milkshake goes into a 110,000 gallon holding tank, which feeds
the 1.2-million-gallon reactor tank in small batches. “The microor-
ganisms consume the food and create a biogas that we collect at the
top of the digester. That gets fed to a natural gas 16-cylinder internal
combustion engine that makes the electricity,” Zacharakus-Jutz says.
Finally, a centrifuge is used to pull out the third byproduct from the
digester—“soil amendment,” commonly known as compost. Ahold
USA officials are looking at different uses for the compost, including
using it in local parks departments and even selling it in the stores.
On the West Coast, Divert runs a similar digester facility for the
Ralphs division of Kroger Co., Nelson says.
When it comes to sustainability, California retailers face stricter
standards than those operating in other states.
Sprouts Farmers Market has teamed with Quest Resource Holding
Corp., a Plano, Texas-based sustainability, recycling and resource
management firm, to help it in its efforts to roll out its Organics
Recycling Program to its approximately 100 Golden State stores.
“In 2013, we decided we needed to make a serious commitment to
reducing our environmental footprint,” says Carlos Rojas, director of
CSR Program and senior counsel for Phoenix-based Sprouts Farmers
Market. “We started looking at different partners to help us in this
effort, and Quest really rose to the top in our search.”
Under Sprouts’ program, any organic product that is no longer sale-
able or cannot be donated is collected and diverted, either for com-
posting or animal feed. Meat is sent to a rendering plant where it is
“Through composting and food donations we really get rid of most
of the product from our stores,” Rojas says. “By the end of the year we
expect to be at a 60 percent diversion rate. Next year we’ll dive into it
even further to see how we can reduce that other 40 percent.” continued on page 48
SAVINGS… IN THE BAG
McDonald’s restaurants used to have a sign outside stating how
many billions of hamburgers were served.
Now that it has saved more than one billion bags, Ahold USA
might be wise to do something similar outside its Stop & Shop,
Giant Food Landover, Giant Food Carlisle and Martin’s stores—
tallying an ongoing count of how many plastic and paper bags it
is preventing from ending up in landfills, dumps and incinerators.
The company, now a division of Ahold-Delhaize, committed to
the bag reduction milestone back in 2011 when it implemented
its Responsible Retailing Strategy seeking to divert 90 percent or
more of its waste from landfills by 2020. It reached the billion bag
reduction portion of its goal this past summer.
“We accomplished our goal by better bagging, packing more
items per bag and promoting reusable bags,” says Marissa Nelson,
senior vice president of responsible retailing and healthy living
at Ahold USA in Quincy, Mass. “We literally have tracked this. Our
auditors have shown that we have eliminated one billion bags
from being used and ending up in landfills. We did a lot of training
with our associates at store level and got our division presidents
into doing videos and challenges.”
As further proof that the effort is working, Nelson says Ahold USA
has witnessed a definite decline in bag orders per store.
This fall, Ahold USA celebrated the milestone by giving away
reusable bags to associates at support offices, along with store-level efforts.
“Every store gave away 100 reusable bags to shoppers,” Nelson
says. “We’re going to thank our store-level associates as well
bags to benches