Wegmans Food Markets is joining Walmart and other food retailers in upping its food waste reduction game.
The retailer has rolled out its Zero Waste program, which began as a one-store pilot in 2016, to five additional locations, with more planned for the future. The grocer is teaming with Rubicon Global, an Atlanta-based provider of sustainable, cloud-based waste and recycling solutions, in its goal of eliminating all forms of waste at its stores, with food waste a particular target.
“Food waste is how we can make the most significant change, not only for what’s ending up in landfills, but for our communities as well,” noted Jason Wadsworth, manager of sustainability at Rochester, N.Y.-based Wegmans.
Added Wadsworth: “Wegmans has been tackling the issues of hunger and food waste in our communities for many years. Both present complex challenges that certainly can’t be solved overnight, but as a food company, we know we can make a positive impact, and we are committed to doing so.”
Although its efforts to minimize food waste date back to the 1970s, the company’s more recent projects in this area include using imperfect produce and slightly blemished food in its foodservice operations, allowing local food pantries and food banks to pickup unsaleable perishable food items to distribute to the needy, diverting food scraps from landfills by offering them as feed for local livestock, and sending food scraps for anaerobic digestion to be turned into energy, or sending them for composting.
In addition to the Zero Waste initiative, Wegmans is an active participant in the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge and has enrolled as one of the first U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions, committing to reduce food loss and waste by 50 percent by the year 2030. Through partnerships with Rubicon and local food banks and pantries, as well as haulers in its market area, the grocer tracks all of the food coming out of its stores whether it’s waste, being donated or being diverted from landfills as feed for livestock, composting or anaerobic digestion.
“It’s all about continuous improvement,” explained Wadsworth. “We have programs in place at all our stores aimed at minimizing waste, but we’ve committed to the Zero Waste journey because we see opportunity for improvement within those established programs, as well as how we educate our store employees. The more they understand the programs, why they’re in place, their importance, and how they benefit the environment, community and the company, the more successful we are in achieving our goals and the sustainability triple win.”
Family-owned Wegmans operates 95 supermarkets in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts.