America has a waste crisis. One that we can’t afford to bury any longer. According to a study by Columbia University, a staggering 90 percent of all raw materials extracted in the U.S. are ultimately dumped into landfills or burned in incinerators. The importance of finding innovative supply chain solutions to this crisis isn’t just an option anymore – it’s a mandatory.
The Taylor Farms Solution: TRUE Certification Innovates Environmental Sustainability
Nicole Flewell, Director of Sustainability for Taylor Farms, understands the scope of the problem – and she wanted to make sure that every member of her Green Team understood too. Which is why she took them on a trip to a local landfill “to give everyone an understanding of the volume of material that we’re generating and the types of materials and the different things that we can do with them—diverting materials to recycling or seeing if they are eligible for reuse,” she said. Thus began Taylor Farm’s journey – or rather, detour – from refuse to reuse. It meant coming face-to-face with the company’s garbage.
“We actually take our trash compactor full of one day’s waste out to the landfill, and we spread it out and separate all the materials out and appraise them,” Nicole explains. “And from what we learn there, we can, for example, work upstream with our vendors to eliminate some kinds of packaging material. We look at every step throughout our entire process in our facility to identify opportunities.”
Nicole spearheaded Taylor Farms’ Zero Waste Program with a lofty goal: to achieve Total Resource Use and Efficiency (TRUE) Platinum Certification for its Gonzales, CA Zero Waste Facility – the US Green Building Council’s highest level of certification. It’s an honor no fresh food company has ever achieved before, and for good reason. “They have a 90 percent requirement in terms of diversion from landfills and incinerators that you have to meet in order to even apply for certification,” Nicole explains. “We were able to achieve a 94 percent diversion rate over 12 months, which was a huge accomplishment for the team.”
Over the course of the program’s 14-month lifetime, Taylor Farms announced that the company has managed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 30,923 MTCO2E—the equivalent to taking 6,510 cars off the road each year. The company has decreased landfill generation by 56 percent in addition to achieving an average of over 94 percent diversion from landfills, incinerators, and the environment in the last 12 months. Taylor Farms has also eliminated all single-use and wax cartons for 100 percent of incoming raw material, working with the company’s growing partners to instead implement RPCs (more on that in a moment).
Giant Eagle’s Innovative Animal Feed Program Drives Environmental Sustainability
Every supermarket has food that it can’t sell. Usually, if it can’t go to a local food bank, it goes straight to the landfill. But Giant Eagle found a more sustainable solution. In the fall of 2017, they teamed up with Organix Recycling. The grocer introduced a Waste to Animal Feed Program at 20 of its Cleveland-area supermarkets. Discarded bakery items, vegetables and fruits are blended with other commodities – such as hay – into wholesome feed for the farms. This in turn, helps feedlots and dairies reduce food expenses by as much as 50%.
“At Giant Eagle, we understand that as a food retailer we have a critical role to play in reducing food waste and bettering the environment,” said Jannah Jablonowski, spokeswoman for the Pittsburgh-based grocer, which operates almost 400 stores in Pennsylvania, Ohio, West Virginia and Maryland. “We strive to take a comprehensive approach to meeting this challenge through strong partnerships with area food banks, real-time food rescue agencies, and through innovative waste diversion initiatives like our recently launched Waste to Animal Feed program.”
While Giant Eagle’s program may not be practical for all supermarkets, they have been able to divert 350,000 tons (to date) of non-saleable food out of landfills and into farms for animal feed. This innovative sustainability solution is yet another example of how both retailers and suppliers can be more responsible, efficient and cost-effective.
Reusable Plastic Containers (RPCs) are Another Innovative Solution for Environmental Sustainability
We know that there are many innovative ways to eliminate waste – whether it be food or one-way packaging. We also know that consumers are far less likely to buy produce that looks bruised or damaged, resulting in an estimated $15 billion annual loss in unsold fruits and vegetables alone. That’s where Tosca RPCs come in. RPCs are more durable, reducing damage to perishables during transit. For example, Tosca’s egg RPCs have been shown to help reduce shrink by up to 50%. Not only do our containers reduce your food waste in-store, but they also eliminate the need to dispose of corrugated cardboard at the baler. Why manage waste when you can eliminate it?
Environmental Sustainability is Everyone’s Responsibility
Our landfills are full, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Recycling can help you move toward your zero-waste target, and utilizing food waste feed to to livestock can also be beneficial. Different solutions exists for different companies. With the common goal of advancing environmental sustainability, a solution worth considering is the implementation of an RPC program. In a world that strives to reduce landfill space, RPCs are indispensable.