Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 11
Wednesday, March 18, 2009
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McCaffrey’s Launches Food Waste Recycling

Dilshanie Perera

McCaffrey’s supermarket in the Princeton Shopping Center unveiled its food waste recycling program on Tuesday, with employees in all departments disposing of bio-materials that will be converted into usable organic fertilizer and resold at the grocery store. This closed-loop system is a partnership between McCaffrey’s Market, Organic Diversion LLC, and Converted Organics Inc.

Rocco D’Antonio of Converted Organics explained that the goal is to minimize the amount of waste that may end up in a landfill by capturing as much material as possible from every department in the store. Organic food waste, like old produce and refuse from the meat department, as well as coffee grounds, shells from the fish department, and paper products like pizza boxes and parchment paper, are all placed into green bins that have biodegradable liners.

From there, the waste is put into a compactor on site, and is collected by Organic Diversion once a week and turned into fertilizer in a Converted Organics facility in New Jersey. The end product, which is a solid organic fertilizer, is packaged and sold at McCaffrey’s, or turned into a liquid fertilizer and sold to professional turf managers, according to Patricia Fiaschetti, a consultant for Converted Organics.

The collection of as much as six to eight tons of organic material per week is expected. Once at the Converted Organics facility, the food waste undergoes a process called “High Temperature Liquid Composting” and is broken down by microbial digestion. “It’s basically an accelerated, high-tech version of composting in peoples’ backyards,” Ms. Fiaschetti said.

Characterizing the waste diversion as mutually beneficial to all parties, Mr. D’Antonio noted that the supermarket is saving money, the companies that are hauling the waste and converting it are making money, and the community will benefit since the waste is diverted in a closed loop system, instead of producing greenhouse gases in a landfill.

The final product, organic fertilizer, is free of chemical pesticides and is safe for children, pets, and waterways, in addition to being appropriate for use on organic farms, Ms. Fiaschetti reported.

The implementation of the food waste recycling program throughout McCaffrey’s is headed by the “Green Team,” that is, six department managers who volunteered to be part of the initiative. The Team got together with all the department managers, associates, and employees for training in which materials could be recycled as part of the food waste composting program. “The training program creates a cultural change, which will become the norm at the McCaffrey’s Market,” Mr. D’Antonio said.

President and CEO of the supermarket, Jim McCaffrey said that the conversion of food waste is another way the small chain is increasing its environmental and sustainable savvy. Cardboard and plastic bag recycling is another attempt to redirect waste destined for landfills.

Store manager Steve Carney reported that the Princeton supermarket has recycled 9.5 tons of plastic bags and plastic wrap, which is equivalent to 1.2 million bags. In addition, the store has seen a 300 percent increase in the use of reusable bags since it began encouraging customers to bring them to the store.

In fact, part of what inspired Mr. Carney and Mr. McCaffrey to look into food waste composting was when they began counting how many plastic bags were being collected for recycling. Upon tallying the numbers, they understood the heightened environmental awareness locally, and Mr. Carney said that “if this is what our community is doing, I just felt it was a no-lose situation for McCaffrey’s to jump on board.”

Mr. Carney predicts that about 65 percent of the waste McCaffrey’s produces will be diverted through the organic material composting.

Looking to extend a similar program for residences, Wendy Kaczerski of the Princeton Environmental Commission and Sustainable Princeton mentioned that a Borough working group headed by engineer Donald Mayer-Brown is assessing the viability of community-wide food waste recycling. She estimated that costs could be cut by over 20 percent for municipalities, schools, and businesses.

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