August 10, 2010 in Business

Composting facilities give Yokes, Rosauers the green light

By The Spokesman-Review
Dan Pelle photo

Jairus Crumley, assistant store manager at the Yoke’s Fresh Market in Mead, dumps a bag of crackers onto a pile of display candy in the store’s composting bin Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2010.
(Full-size photo)

Managers of Spokane Valley-based Yoke’s Fresh Market say they’re saving $7,000 a week by separating food waste from store garbage and sending it to a regional composting facility.

Yoke’s seven Spokane stores started separating food products from other trash in late May.

That step reduced the amount of garbage hauled to Spokane’s trash incinerator by at least 60 percent, said Scott Brower, Yoke’s district manager. He said Yoke’s stores in Spokane produce upwards of 40 cubic yards of trash every week from the seven stores.

“It’s definitely a cost saver for us, and I’m sure other (supermarkets in the area) will be doing the same,” Brower said.

It’s already happening. Three weeks ago Rosauers Supermarkets became the second Spokane grocery group to separate food waste. In the next few months Safeway hopes to begin separating out compostable waste, said Cherie Myers, a spokeswoman for the national chain.

Both Yoke’s and Rosauers say they’re saving by sending compostable waste to a recycler and slicing significantly the charges they paid to send all their waste to the area’s waste-to-energy incinerator.

Rosauers workers are separating food waste at its regular stores, plus the Huckleberry’s Natural Market and SuperOne on the South Hill. Rosauers separates between 65 and 70 cubic yards of food waste per week, instead of sending it to the regional waste-to-energy incinerator.

Both the Yoke’s and the Rosauers waste reductions occurred after two regional composting facilities opened for business in recent months.

Mike Shirts, chief operating officer at Rosauers, said the company has looked at recycling food waste for two years. It couldn’t start the program, though, until Barr-Tech LLC, a for-profit recycling facility in Fishtrap southwest of Spokane, began operating.

Shirts said it’s too early to calculate how much Rosauers is saving. “It’s still brand new, but we expect our total costs will drop dramatically,” he said.

Waste Management, the firm that operates the local incinerator, has a contract with Rosauers to haul food waste to Fishtrap, Shirts said.

Yoke’s is using Spokane-based recycler Sunshine Disposal & Recycling to truck about 40 cubic yards per week to Royal Organic Products, in Royal City in rural Grant County. There it’s mixed with grass, leaves, branches and trimmings to be turned into organic compost.

Marc Rickey, account manager for Sunshine, said the firm’s trucks haul food waste to Royal City, then head to Spokane with compost Royal Organic sells to landscapers.

Royal Organic is the same facility that composts all green yard waste collected by Spokane solid waste crews. Earlier this summer Spokane officials urged residents to place food items in recycling barrels; those food items also go to Royal City.

Compostable food wastes include produce, discarded deli items, meat scraps, baked items and plant trimmings. Meat and fish scraps can be taken to commercial sites like Royal Organic because they mix the food with green waste on such a large scale that it produces temperatures above 130 degrees. Backyard composting cannot produce temperatures that high.

The remaining waste sent by grocers to the incinerator comprises tin cans, non-recyclable plastic jugs and other items.

Seattle-area grocery chains began diverting food waste from trash two years ago, said Safeway’s Myers. “We’ve been very interested in doing the same thing in Eastern Washington,” she said.

It couldn’t happen, though, until the two facilities in Royal City and Fishtrap finally were able to accept the food waste, she said.

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