Kroger Co. is one of the world’s largest grocery retailers with a reach that extends into the realm of department stores, discounters, convenience stores and jewellery stores. A press release circulated by Kroger earlier this month announced the release of the company’s seventh annual sustainability report, highlighting goals set by the group upon signing up to the EPA’s WasteWise Program in 2012.

Given the opportunity to measure, track and effectively communicate their “green” efforts, Kroger has made a commitment to exceed the “zero waste” threshold, set by the EPA, by reaching a level 90% in all facilities. Here’s a quick look at how the company is progressing in meeting its sustainable goal.

Turning food waste into biogas

At present, Kroger stores divert 58% of all waste, but according to the company’s sustainability page, in an effort to reach (or exceed) the zero waste threshold, it has committed to increasing its waste diversion by 65% by end of this year. Kroger hopes to further reduce waste diversion by an additional 10% by the end of 2015.

Is it enough to reach the 90% goal set out by the EPA? Maybe not yet, but at the pace the company is going, they’re well on their way. The company owes such speedy success partially to the development of the Kroger Recovery System, a unit that uses anaerobic digestion to turn 150 tons of food waste – food that can’t be sold or donated on-site – per day into renewable biogas that is then turned into power for on-site operations. At present, the system produces enough biogas to offset more than 20% of the energy demand at Kroger’s Ralphs/Food 4 Less distribution centre, and has allowed for a reduction of area truck trips by more than 500,000 miles each year, leading to an overall reduction in carbon emissions of 90,000 tons annually.

The company has also improved fleet productivity, contributing to a 4.8% reduction in overall carbon footprint, despite continual growth in terms of product selection. Fleet efficiency alone has increased by 33.1% since 2008, spanning across the company’s entire delivery fleet which consists of 2,700 tractors and 10,000 trailers. The company aims to reach 40% by 2014.

Recycle, reduce… re-use!

To compliment efforts targeting the reduction of food waste, Kroger plans to increase the amount of produce shipped in reusable plastic containers. The company hopes this will help improve product quality and significantly reduce the amount of waste being produced. This year, it is estimated that the use of RPCs will eliminate the need for more than 60 million pounds of waxed and corrugated boxes.

Do you think that Kroger will be able to operate its facilities under a zero waste policy in the near future? Leave your comments below! Interested in learning more about Kroger and their sustainable efforts? The entire 2012 Sustainability Report is now available for download online.

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image credit: Otherstream