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Niles Jewel-Osco Pioneers Eco-Friendly Idea

Groceries and restaurants put tons of food scraps into landfills. Now, Jewel-Osco is becoming an environmental leader with a program to compost food scraps. Chipotle got a permit to do a similar program.

 

Two businesses in Niles, Jewel-Osco at 7900 N. Milwaukee Avenue and 8488 W. Golf Road, are leading the way in a progressive environmental trend. 

Like many food businesses, they are left with food scraps to dispose of. Instead of putting them into the garbage, which goes into landfills. they are composting them. 

Jewel-Osco already has its composting program underway. In November, the Niles village board approved an exemption for Chipotle to divert food scraps from its regular garbage hauler to one which provides composting services.

Earlier: Niles floats Environmental Plan to the public

Wynne Adams, Sustainability Manager for Chipotle, said the company is excited about composting at its Niles location, but it's too early in the process to comment.

John Dunsing, Environmental Sustainability Manager for Jewel-Osco, answered our questions about his company's program.

Patch: Please start at the beginning and tell us what's going on with this initiative.  

Dunsing: Doing what’s right for the environment is very important to us at JEWEL-OSCO.  With that in mind, one of our goals is to achieve zero waste in our operations, and food scrap diversion is just one of the methods we use to accomplish that goal.  We began recycling food scraps at JEWEL-OSCO in November 2011 at our three stores in Central Illinois’ Bloomington-Normal area. 

Since then, we have gradually increased the number of stores that participate in food scrap diversion, and now we’re up to 170 locations.

Does Jewel-Osco have an environmental policy or program, and if so, is this a part of it? 

Environmental sustainability is one of our three focus areas for corporate social responsibility.  It is also important to our parent company, SUPERVALU.  For more information, please visit the following links: 

http://www.jewelosco.com/about/environmental-affairs.html

http://www.supervalu.com/sv-webapp/about/envstewardship.jsp

Why is the Oakton-Milwaukee Avenue location in particular doing this? Any other locations?  

The store’s participation is part of a larger effort to reduce waste in our operations.  As I mentioned, we have 170 stores engaged in food scrap diversion.  As a result of composting and other recycling efforts, five of our stores have each succeed in diverting at least 90 percent of their waste from landfills.  Those stores are located in Bloomington-Normal and Orland Park and Frankfort, Ill.  Our distribution center, in Melrose Park, Ill., also diverts at least 90 percent of its waste from landfills.

Was the regular garbage pickup company not able to pick up food scraps for composting?  

Our regular solid waste hauler was unable to accommodate food scrap diversion to composting.

In that case, which company picks up the food scraps and does the composting?  

We work with several local haulers to pick up food scraps for recycling.  For the Milwaukee Avenue store, in Niles, Waste Management picks up the food scraps and diverts the food to one of several local state-permitted food composting sites. 

Is this a new trend among grocery stores and food providers?  

I can’t speak for other companies, but reducing waste is very important to us.  We believe it’s just the right thing to do.

What kinds of food can be composted?  Vegetables, meats, dairy?  

Just about any food can be composted.  Some of the main items that are recycled from our stores are produce, bakery, dairy, salads and more.

Where does the composting take place?  

Local composting facilities handle this. We currently work with state-permitted food composting sites in Calumet City, Wauconda, Waukegan, DeKalb, Romeoville and Lexington, Ill.

What are the economics of it? Do you pay to have the food composted, do they pay you and then earn money from selling the compost, or how does it work?  

We pay a service fee to the haulers to pick up the food from our stores.  However, we do not participate in the financial aspect of the process, once the food leaves our stores.  The haulers are required to pay a fee per ton, to drop the food scrap material at the compost sites.  Finished compost is sold to the public at a set rate per finished yard.

Is the cost to you expensive?  

We’re currently evaluating the financial impact of food scrap diversion.  However, we plan to make this a long-term commitment.

Could smaller food stores or restaurants do the same thing?  Where would they go to learn more about it?  

The food scrap collection routes that are now on the road as a result of our efforts can be utilized by other retailers, hospitals, universities and other food scrap generators.  The local county solid waste agencies and local haulers can be excellent resources for businesses looking to get into food scrap diversion.

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