Following a successful one-store pilot in 2016, Wegmans has rolled out its Zero Waste program to five additional stores, with more slated for the future.
Joining the pilot store in Canadaigua, New York, are stores in Pittsford, Ithaca and Alberta Drive, New York; Westwood, Massachusetts; and Allentown, Pennsylvania.
In partnership with Rubicon Global, Wegmans is working toward eliminating all forms of waste at its stores with food waste front and center.
“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,” said Jason Wadsworth, Wegmans sustainability manager.
According to Wegmans, unused food left sitting in landfills generates billions of metric tons of methane gas, not to mention the wasted resources used to grow, process and transport it.
“Wegmans has been tackling the issues of hunger and food waste in our communities for many years,” said Wadsworth. “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.”
Wegmans efforts to minimize food waste date back to the 1970s. Following the EPA’s Food Recovery Hierarchy, Wegmans first aims to minimize food waste at the source by using less-than-perfect produce and slightly blemished food in its culinary operations.
Next, unsaleable perishable food items are picked up at Wegmans stores throughout the week by local food pantries and food banks that can get it into the hands of those who need it most.
Next, food scraps are diverted from landfills by offering them as feed for local livestock. Finally, food scraps are sent for anaerobic digestion to be turned into energy or sent for composting.
In addition to the Zero Waste initiative, Wegmans is an active participant in the EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge and has signed on as one of the first U.S. Food Loss and Waste 2030 Champions, making the commitment to reduce food loss and waste by 50 percent by the year 2030.
Through partnerships with Rubicon, local food banks and pantries and local haulers, Wegmans tracks all the food coming out of its stores, whether it’s waste being donated or diverted from landfills as feed for livestock, composting or anaerobic digestion.
By the Numbers
- Wegmans donated a total of 14.5 million pounds of perishable and non-perishable food in 2017.
- Currently, 21 Wegmans locations are working with local farmers and organizations such as zoos and animal rescues to provide animal feed.
- Last year, 70 Wegmans stores diverted more than 32.5 million pounds of food waste through its diversion programs.
- The average recycling rate at Wegmans is 64 percent. At the company’s Zero Waste pilot store in Canandaigua, the recycling rate is up to 82.6 percent, and the newest stores to the program are averaging 73 percent.
“It’s all about continuous improvement,” said 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.”
Wegmans Food Markets is a 95-store supermarket chain with stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and Massachusetts.