“It’s all about diverting as much waste as possible from landfill,” says Geneviève Paradis. She is a Specialist with the Sobeys Sustainability team, and is focused on waste diversion and sustainable sourcing.
Geneviève has been working on an Action Reduction Certification for IGA stores, a tailored support service that encourages stores to better manage their waste. “It gives personalized support to help reduce the amount of waste sent to landfill or incineration by reducing waste at the source and by recovering it through composting or recycling,” she says.
Employees are used to recycling at home and they’re happy to also do it at work.
Finding ways to reduce waste
It all began with the Fonds Éco IGA, a food waste management project founded in 2008 and managed by Earth Day Canada, a non-profit whose mission is to help people and organizations reduce their impact on the environment.
“In 2013, the Fonds Éco IGA began rolling out a major waste management program for IGA supermarkets,” Geneviève says. The purpose of the program is to help supermarkets give a second life to cardboard, leftover food and other waste they generate.
To recognize retailers’ efforts to improve their residual waste management, Earth Day Canada has created Action Reduction, a tailored support service for organizations. “It is designed to attest to retailers’ efforts, allow them to set concrete goals and inform customers of the store’s commitment to reducing waste,” Geneviève explains.
Getting certified for waste diversion
The Action Reduction program consists of six levels of certification. For the Bronze level, the criteria are built around collecting cardboard and plastic wrap. The Silver level introduces at least two additional waste collection streams. With Gold, commitments from the previous levels are needed, with at least three more collection streams to produce a waste recovery rate of 55 per cent or more. Platinum carries the process further, demanding a waste recovery rate of between 70 and 79 per cent. And Diamond requires a recovery rate of 80 per cent or higher.
That list of all available waste that can be diverted is captured in a checklist which includes: cardboard, plastic wrap, fat and bone, used oil, organics, recycling and food donations.
Advisors from Earth Day Canada pinpoint waste-diversion opportunities for each store, including recommendations on equipment, signage and training.
Recycling at work, works
So far, all roads have led to success. Of the 230 certified IGA stores, 71 of them are certified at the highest levels: 39 stores are certified Platinum, and 32 stores are certified Diamond, with the top Diamond store achieving a diversion rate of 95 per cent.
“I enjoy working for a company that is a good corporate citizen and cares about the environment,” Geneviève says. “Employees are used to recycling at home and they’re happy to also do it at work. They’re proud to work for a company that is making efforts to reduce its environmental footprint. We have lots of young employees, and this generation is even more interested in the environment.”
Implementing waste management from coast to coast
For now, this new certification is only given to IGA and IGA Extra stores in Quebec and New Brunswick, and is valid for two years. Pilot projects will eventually be conducted in other parts of Canada to get the waste-reduction ball rolling on a larger scale.
“I am so proud of this project, which started small and has grown so much over the years,” Geneviève says. “Seeing the improvement in the waste diversion rates is what makes it really exciting for me.”
By Doug Wallace