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Jun 302011

From Green Right Now Reports

Grocery stores deal with an incredible amount of churn — produce that spoils, cardboard boxes that need breaking down, delivery pallets coming and going, meat departments cycling the old inventory out.

Albertsons achieved zero waste in two California stores.

Getting a grocery to achieve zero waste conjures images of work crews heaving cantaloupes into mountainous compost piles and employees working chain gang-style folding boxes into the night.

Fortunately, it’s not quite that hard. With the right support systems, groceries can conquer their refuse and recyclables. Exhibit one: Two Albertsons in Santa Barbara that got to “zero”, helping SUPERVALU INC. become the first U.S. retail grocer to announce such an achievement.

The two stores accomplished this goal of diverting virtually all of their waste (over 95 percent) through aggressive recycling programs, a food donation program and a joint organic composting system with the City of Santa Barbara (lesson: It helps if your city operates an organic waste composting program), according to Minnesota-based SUPERVALU.

Now the grocery chain hopes to replicate that success at 40 more Albertsons or other stores owned by SUPERVALU, announcing that new goal today with the release of the company’s corporate social responsibility report.

“We are aggressively seeking ways to build on our sustainability achievements from this past year,” said Andy Herring, executive vice president, real estate, market development and legal.

To achieve the zero waste recognition, stores must divert at least 90% of all waste from landfills, which SUPERVALU expects a store can accomplish through “increased associate engagement”, recycling, composting and the active use of the company’s Fresh Rescue food bank donation program, which donates foods that have reached their “sell by” date to non-profits.

SUPERVALU contributed more than 60 million pounds of food last year, helping the hungry and homeless.

“Our commitment to significantly increase the number of zero waste stores is part of a long-term strategy for SUPERVALU to be a leader in the area of environmental sustainability,” said Herring. “At the same time, we are committed to these projects because we’ve also seen that they make a positive financial impact on our business, a true win-win.”