Supermarket Waste Becomes Energy
Improved environmental stewardship, better use of waste resources fuels the Redner’s grind-to-energy program to produce methane fuel.
On a recent Thursday, Redner’s Hamburg store director Josh Evans shoved rotten lettuce, tomatoes, chicken parts and pieces of beef fat into what was essentially an industrial garbage disposal. It’s a twice-daily ritual in his store.
Instead of heading to a compactor and a landfill, in a few weeks, that slurry will help fuel a Hershey-area wastewater treatment facility, in Derry Township, Dauphin County, in a groundbreaking new arrangement.
Maidencreek Town-ship-based Redner’s Warehouse Markets has become the first high-volume grocery store in Pennsylvania to adopt a food waste disposal system called Grind2Energy.
The 44-store grocery chain partnered with St. Louis based Emerson to install the system in stores in Hamburg and Leesport in January.
Combined with recycling, the system enables the stores to divert 3.5 tons of food waste from landfills each week, according to John Flickinger, risk manager for Redner’s.
He couldn’t say how much money the company is saving, but said it is something he is evaluating. He is optimistic about the savings and environmental impact.
“By introducing this system in two of our stores, we can realize not only the environmental importance but the cost savings associated with less tons of waste going to a landfill,” Flickinger said.
Prior to installing the system, the stores emptied trash compactors every three weeks. In Hamburg, with the new grind system, the trash compactor was emptied after three months. The Leesport store emptied its compactor after two months. The compactors hold about 11 tons of waste, Flickinger said.
Evans said he has found the system less smelly and messy than a compactor.
Eric White, consumer communications specialist, said the new system has not changed the company’s dedication to the Greater Berks Food Bank.
“The food bank is still No. 1,” Flickinger said.
A full 10 percent of the available food supply in the U.S. is wasted every year at the retail level, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Some estimates are higher. According to the National Resource Defense Council, 40 percent of the food produced in the U.S. is going to landfills. Grocery stores and restaurants serve up more than 400 million pounds of food each year, but about a third of it goes to waste.
Traditionally, that waste is sent to a landfill, where the food scraps emit methane: a greenhouse gas 21 times more potent than carbon dioxide that traps heat in the atmosphere and is a major contributor to global warming, White said. The federal government and many states are trying to address the impact of food waste on landfills and the environment. Some states and local governments have started requiring source-separating and diversion of organic waste to either composting or anaerobic digestion facilities.
Pennsylvania was moving in that direction 11 years ago when Redner’s started composting at its Schuylkill Haven store, White said. It hasn’t yet legislated food waste, but landfills are filling up.
“You are going to come to a tipping point,” White said.
Germany has been using fuel from anaerobic digestion for many years. There are 6,800 digesters across a country half the size of Texas, according to Doug Brokaw, director of sales at Grind2Energy. There are about 1,500 in the U.S., he said.
Brokaw said Grind2Energy was developed in 2010 when Quasar Energy group in Cleveland asked for help in creating a contaminant-free liquefied feedstock for their anaerobic digesters. In other words, they needed a slurry that didn’t have forks or knives or other nonorganic items to gum up their system.
“Initial development began at our lab in Racine, Wis., and the prototypes were tested through a partnership with the Blackwell Inn Hotel, on Ohio State’s campus in Columbus, Ohio,” Brokaw said. Among the stores outside of Pennsylvania that have adopted Grind2Energy are Whole Foods stores in New England and Sendik’s in Wisconsin, according to Brokaw.
What makes the system attractive to stores and restaurants is that Grind2Energy handles the entire process from installation and maintenance at a store to hauling it to treatment facility. Grind2Energy monitors the slurry tank, which is kept outside the back of the store. The company notifies the hauler, Kline’s Service Inc., of Salunga, Lancaster County, when the tank is ready to be emptied. Kline’s hauls the slurry to the Derry Township Municipal Authority, which uses the slurry to make biogas, which fuels a cogenerator at the facility.
Stores also receive an analysis called a sustainability report. So far, Evans said, the feedback has been great.
“I think we’re being good stewards in our community,” Flickinger said.
Contact Lisa Scheid: 610-371-5049 or firstname.lastname@example.org.