FreshChoice Richmond owner Gary Watson with a bale of compacted cardboard from the supermarket’s recycling plant last week. Photo: Simon Bloomberg.

Supermarket makes most of rubbish

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Freshchoice Richmond owner Gary Watson knew their supermarket wasn’t up to the mark with its recycling policies so he decided to do something about it.

But what surprised Gary, after he invested in some expensive plant to reduce their impact on the environment, was that it also saved them money. In fact, the $65,000 plant is so effective at reducing waste, Gary says it will pay for itself in under three years.

Gary says the plant compacts cardboard and plastic into squares which are sold directly as a commodity to Full Circle Recycling. The profit from the recycling “more than pays for the cost of rubbish removal” which has also been greatly reduced by another compacting bin.

“Instead of us sending the cardboard and plastic to the refuse transfer station, we compact it ourselves and make money from it,” Gary says. “We used to get our rubbish collected once or twice a day and now it’s only twice a week so that saves us money too.”

Gary says they process around eight tonnes of cardboard and 300kg plastic a month and that is compacted down into just 20 pallets. The only waste left that is not recycled now is dirty plastic and recycled cardboard which isn’t suitable for a second recycling process.

Environmental research shows that recycling a tonne of cardboard can save up to 290kW of energy, 175 litres of oil and seven cubic metres of landfill.

Although Gary says he purchased the plant for environmental reasons, he was pleasantly surprised by the economic benefits. He says investing in the plant was “a no-brainer for a business of this size” and has been talking to other FreshChoice supermarket owners about the benefits of the system.

The supermarket’s policy on food waste has also changed, making people and not pigs a priority.

Freshchoice Richmond used to give all their waste food to pig farmers but now most of it is collected by the Tahunanui Community Centre and Kai Rescue to be redistributed to families in need – a small amount also goes to Pet Rescue in Motueka.