by Patrick Schroeder, Prepared Foods Category Manager
Our Delis, Bakeries, and Juice Bars move through thousands and thousands of pounds of food and gallons of drink every year. Most of this volume leaves our stores in boxes or cups made out of paper or plastic. We recognize the inherent problem with this: the food is consumed and serves to nourish you, the container turns into waste. We are always curious about how we can continue to make a difference with this dynamic. More than a few years ago, we transitioned all of our plastic Deli containers to ones made from 100% post-consumer recycled material produced by Placon in Fitchburg. We’re pretty happy with Placon and their products. They’ve proven that they also want to continue to innovate in sustainable packaging. That said, we still transact in thousands of paper to-go boxes, soup and coffee cups that can’t be fully recycled.
New Soup Containers & Coffee Cups
Recently, National Co+op Grocers, owners of the “Co+op” brand and a cooperative of grocery cooperatives, has worked to secure a new line of compostable and Co+op-branded paper products. Our hot soup and coffee cups will be traded out for new compostable ones from EcoProducts of Boulder, Colorado. EcoProducts manufactures these cups out of 100% renewable materials (they don’t specify which) and lines them with corn-based plastics. They also exhibit their commitment to waste reduction in their manufacturing. Currently, they recycle or compost over 50% of their production waste. We are excited to help bring forth additional products from this forward-thinking company.
Compostable plastic cookie sleeves
In addition to the cups, we are also looking at sourcing some compostable plastic sleeves to package our larger cookies in. We have struggled to keep these cookies fresh and presentable for as long as we’d like. We make our cookies from scratch daily in our Production Kitchen. We have wanted to find a way to extend shelf-life, provide better movement tracking for each cookie, increase merchandising opportunities, and reduce breakage and cross contamination of the cookies sitting open in a self-serve bakery case. We think these sleeves will help us meet these goals.
Not a perfect solution
While all of these new packages present some potential for sustainability, they’re still not a perfect solution. The compostability of these new cups and bags is contingent on being sent to a commercial composting facility. They won’t break down in almost any other environment. Unfortunately, these facilities are still pretty rare. Locally, the Madison Streets Department is in the midst of its pilot Organics Collection project, but none of our stores are currently included in that program. We hope that the adoption of products like this by businesses like ours will continue to build the demand for commercial composting services so that we can complete the cycle of their use in a more responsible way.