Giant Food Stores LLC’s Cleona, Pa., store has become the first in the Ahold Delhaize USA chain to reach zero-waste status. As defined by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, zero waste means that 90 percent or more of a store's total waste is being diverted from a landfill or incineration.
"It’s been a total store effort as we set up each department, so it’s easy to do the right thing when it comes to lessening our environmental impact," noted Judy Knarr, assistant store manager at the Cleona location and green captain for her district. "We have associates across the store who have embraced our recycling efforts and collectively have changed the store’s culture to achieve this goal."
The store's employees have implemented recycling procedures, as well as carefully monitoring what’s sent to its trash compactor so nothing gets thrown away that could potentially be recycled. This includes ensuring that no cardboard is labeled as garbage, filling designated bins with food waste and scraps for organic recycling, and collecting plastic bags, plastic film and empty pharmacy pill bottles to be sent to Giant’s recycling center. The undertaking began in 2012, when the company began promoting best practices to reduce waste within stores.
Along with the Cleona associates, shoppers have joined in the effort.
"There are a lot of little things we do that get the customers excited and help us drive down waste at the same time," said Andrea Doygun, the store’s manager. "For example, we clean the empty frosting containers from the bakery, as well as corn crates from produce, and put them out for our customers to take them home and reuse them. Every little thing counts."
"Doing our part in caring for the environment for future generations is a major initiative for us companywide,” added Manuel Haro, Giant's VP of strategy. "To reach zero waste is a significant achievement that required the complete dedication of all Cleona store associates. Not only is Cleona the first Giant to reach zero waste, it's also the first store among our Ahold Delhaize USA sister companies to achieve this milestone."
Currently, 77 percent of all waste generated by the grocer’s stores is diverted through recycling and composting.
Additionally, as part of Giant’s Meat the Needs program, stores safely freeze and donate meat that would otherwise go unused, providing more than 1 million meals to the needy, while bread and other bakery items go to regional food banks.
Last year, the chain saved more than 930,000 trees by recycling cardboard at all stores and distribution centers. Since 2011, Giant and its parent company have removed more than 1 billion plastic bags from the waste stream through more efficient bagging, increased usage of reusable tote bags by customers, and turning plastic bags into 1,500 donated park benches through the Bags to Benches program.
Carlisle, Pa.-based Giant has more than 170 stores in Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia, employing 30,000-plus associates. Ahold Delhaize USA is No. 4 on Progressive Grocer's 2018 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States.