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Supermarket’s On-Site Harvester Turns Food Waste Into Fertilizer

PCC Natural Markets, the nation’s largest member-owned grocery retailer, has selected its Issaquah, Wash., store for its first on-site food scrap “harvester.”

PCC is undertaking the pilot project in partnership with local clean technology firm WISErg Corporation, which developed the harvester. The overall system includes a sealed harvester that grinds food scraps, as well as a finishing process that results in an organic liquid fertilizer called WISErganic.

WISErganic is sourced from PCC’s own food scraps and available for sale to PCC customers in all nine of the market’s locations.

The harvester has been on site for six weeks and continuous digital monitoring and feedback confirms that the harvester performs well, PCC says. The base fertilizer has also been subject to early testing at Washington State University.

PCC says that its goal, of producing an organic fertilizer with bio-stimulatory effects that can compete with consumer-oriented synthetics, both in terms of cost and efficacy, appears within reach. The fertilizer also improves soil health, unlike petroleum derived synthetics, the company says.

The unit is the result of two years of research and development by WISErg. PCC says the technology offers the opportunity for grocery stores to lower their carbon footprint by significantly reducing the volume of food scrap waste transported offsite.

According to the EPA, about 100 billion pounds of food is wasted each year in the United States. Wasted food that gets thrown out accounts for almost 34 million tons of the solid waste generated in the United States. Less than three percent of that food waste is recovered, PCC says.

In February, UK grocery giant Tesco began trialing a packaging strip developed by It’sFresh! Ltd. in an effort to make food last longer and prevent waste. The supermarket giant will be the first retailer to test the packaging on tomatoes and avocados, which are the food items that go to waste most often. The company says the strips could save 1.6 million packs of tomatoes and 350,000 packs of avocados a year.

Also in February, food company Kraft announced that it now has 36 facilities in 13 countries that send zero waste to landfills. One Kraft plant in San Leandro and two in Fresno, California diverted more than 100 tons of food waste – such as corn skins – for use as animal feed, helping to cut waste to landfill about 26 percent since 2009. The Philadelphia cream cheese plant in Beaver Dam, Wisc., partnered with the city in 2010 and 2011 to build an anaerobic digester that turns whey waste into biogas.

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