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Independent Grocer (Whitehorse)

November 2, 2017 Independent Grocer (Whitehorse)

Almost two years ago, Mark Wykes made a big change in the way Independent Grocer approached its waste.  A number of factors brought his attention to the grocery store’s waste strategy.  Facing challenges with their garbage pickup, Mark knew they could be doing things more economically.  Mark also recognized that this was an opportunity to improve the store’s practices.  Having been approached by Whitehorse’s two recyclers, he knew that much of the store’s garbage didn’t need to go to waste .

Today, equipment previously used for landfill-bound garbage is now dedicated exclusively to recycling cardboard, which in itself diverts almost half of the store’s waste for recycling.  Plastic is also sorted and kept in fiber bags for recycling by P&M.

As a grocery store, Extra Foods needs to deal with waste resulting from damaged and unsold food products.  Mark is looking forward to piloting an organic pickup from the city.  However, Independent has already made arrangements that recognize the value of many of their unsold food items:  Food with damaged packaging is currently donated to the local food bank.  Veggie scraps are provided to local pig and chicken farmers, recycling food “waste” into locally generated food.  Mark is now working with Loblaws to figure out safe ways to salvage other foods, like meat, that have just hit their ‘best-before-date’.

When we visited, Mark had just gotten off the phone with P&M recyclers, arranging to divert Styrofoam that will be brought to Raven Recycling and processed by Whitehorse’s new Styrofoam compressing machine.

When asked about advice for other businesses, Mark says “It’s probably a lot easier than you think it’s going to be.  Businesses will find that their staff want to do this stuff.  They care about it.”  Running an operation located in an old building with limited space, he notes the changes they’ve made haven’t been as hard as he had anticipated. By evaluating the options out there, and working with local recyclers keen to make it work, the grocery store managed to put aside a bit of space and create a new system that is working well for them. “If we could do it, probably anyone can”, says Mark.

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