Composting at the Co-op
As global citizens living in a biological world, we have a responsibility to deal with our waste both on the home front and at work. At home, it’s relatively easy to deal with our yard and food waste: read up on how to compost, buy or build an outdoor composter, and make composting part of our daily living. For those of us without outdoor spaces, there are great options like worm or bokashi composting.
At work, it’s a little more complicated, but often still possible. Diverting our wet waste from becoming trash may take some ingenuity and coordination with our fellow workers and customers. However, once we have a system up and running, it often requires only minimal maintenance to work well.
For more than 27 years, the Kootenay Coop has made a commitment to returning our so-called wet waste to our local farmers and interested residents for use as soil enrichment. As we have grown, so has the Co-op’s food waste. Most of this organic matter is generated by the Produce department, primarily from the process of ‘prepping’ (for example, removing the outer leaves of lettuce) and weeding out vegetables and fruit that are bruised or overripe. There is also organic waste from other departments, for example spills in the Bulk section. And it turns out that 40 people eating lunch every day in the staff room can create some substantial kitchen waste! All of this waste comes to the warehouse and is stored in bins and bags for pick up by local gardeners, farmers and homesteaders for high-quality compost and animal feed.
For at least two decades, this program quietly returned wet waste to a small group of local farmers, but the secret is out! People are knocking down the doors to get our coveted compostables. On an average day, we give away 36-45 kg (80-100 lbs) of the stuff! It really adds up.
Over the year, we estimate that we create 16,600 kg of mostly organic, whole food compost and animal feed…time to stop calling it ‘wet waste’, that’s for sure!
Thinking back to the 6.6 million pounds of wet waste that grocery stores dispose of annually in the US; it’s exciting to imagine how much waste our own region could collectively divert from the landfill if we work together and encourage friends, family and local businesses to compost their wet waste. And equally inspiring to think of all the green things we can grow instead!
In addition to composting our organic matter, the Kootenay Coop also:
- recycles as much packaging and paper-based material as we can
- offers our large volume of wax produce boxes to farmers or others for reuse
- packages groceries with reusable bags
- supports suppliers who use refundable containers that can be used repeatedly, like Kootenay Meadows Milk.
- collects used beeswax candles for reuse (receptable in the Wellness Department)
- and encourages our members to buy bulk and bring their reusable containers from home
-Matt Lowe, Produce Assistant Manager