Mass. Improvements

New England Patriots fans like myself are pretty distraught this week. But cheer up, Massachusetts, things aren’t all bad. There’s some pretty neat stuff happening with wasted food in the state.

Most significantly, Bay State supermarkets are slashing the amount of food waste being sent to landfills. More than 60 stores are participating in the Supermarket Recycling Program, which saves supermarkets an average of $4,400 per year. Case study reports are available online for two chains: Roche Brothers and Stop & Shop.

With waste disposal in Massachusetts ranging from $80-$100 per ton, keeping organics from the dumpster is quite practical. Roche Brothers saved $60,000 between its three stores by separating and composting organic materials like food waste, paper and flowers (full disclosure–my mom is a regular at this supermarket). Each Roche outlet cut its total trash output by more than 80 percent. Stop & Shop, meanwhile, reduced trash disposal costs by 15 to 25 percent by sending dairy, bakeshop, produce and other waste to a commercial composter.

Shaw’s and Whole Foods are also taking part in this joint-effort between the non-profit WasteCap of Massachusetts, industry group Massachusetts Food Association and the state’s Department of Environmental Protection. It’s an important project, as supermarkets produce about 11 percent of the state’s food and organic waste (Supermarkets are the third largest source of food waste, behind manufacturers/processors and restaurants). As we discussed earlier, keeping this heavy, wet trash from the landfills helps the environment. It prevents methane emissions that landfills currently spew and leaching of harmful liquids into groundwater.

While composting is beneficial, donating edible, but not sellable food to food rescue groups is the best solution. On that front, Food for Free and other food recovery groups are doing their part. In addition, the new Boston Convention Center is diverting most of their organic waste from landfill, both donating food to non-profits and composting the rest. Food from on-site banquets and even certain expositions, like Boston Seafood Show, are either given to those less fortunate or composted.

Finally, there’s plenty of composting of food waste at local universities like B.U., Harvard, Tufts and UMass Boston. Even the Massachusetts Department of Corrections sends some food to a pig farm. I’ll be researching these locations in the upcoming days.

As we’ve seen, acting “green” saves these organizations plenty of green. It’s a real win-win. While I can’t say the same about the Patriots recent loss, take heart, Massachusetts. You certainly have some innovative uses for food waste. Besides, at least you don’t have to spend the next two weeks being reminded of the 1986 Patriots-Bears Super Bowl XX slaughter.

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