Congrats to Village Supermarkets and ShopRite for deploying a smarter way to manage front-of-house waste and recycling operations! In honor of Earth Day 2017, this retailer took the time to showcase their commitment to sustainability while increasing productivity. Read on for great local coverage from Greater Morristown, New Jersey as published on USA Today:
In recognition of Earth Day, Village Supermarkets and ShopRite of Greater Morristown unveiled their new solar-powered, Bigbelly trash bins. S(Photo: USA Today/William Westhoven/Staff Photo)
Mark Koeck, representing a new partner for Village Supermarkets, was happy to be talking trash on Thursday at ShopRite of Greater Morristown. Two days before the observance of Earth Day 2017 on Saturday, Koeck and ShopRite staff unveiled new technology-filled Bigbelly public trash cans installed outside and inside the store.
"It is actually an Internet-connected device with a compacter in it," said Koeck, director of private sector solutions for the Needham, Mass.-based Bigbelly, a manufacturer of "smart" waste and recycling systems. "It uses solar power to compact the trash. There's a 30-gallon container in there, but it's as if it's a 150-gallon container when you compact it. What that means is that typically, you're going to use about 2,000 less bags in a year (per store)."
"ShopRite and Village Supermarkets specifically has been increasing our sustainability initiatives for the past two years, we've done a lot with waste recycling in general, getting food waste out of the landfills, commingled recycling, and this Bigbelly system really brings it to a whole new level," said Amanda Fischer, director of business relations for Village Supermarkets. "It enables us to do better with recycling, and show our customers that we do care about the environment, and we encourage them to recycle at our store."
Fischer said the Bigbelly units — separate solar-powered units for standard and recycled trash outside, and electric-powered units inside where solar power is not an option — are currently installed on a testing basis at other Village Supermarket ShopRites in Chatham, Chester, Long Hill and Livingston, with an eye on installing them at all 29 company-owned stores.
"So far we've gotten a lot of good feedback, so as we remodel stores, we look to put the systems in and see where they make the best fit," Fischer said. "We've had the waste ones since February, and we just installed the recycling units."
At first glance, the box-shaped Bigbelly units do not look much different from a standard public trash bin. On closer inspection, a large solar cell is seen embedded into the top of the bin. Sensors also are installed with lights to indicate when it is full, and a communication system can even alert store staff that it needs to be emptied. A foot pedal also allows for hands-free opening.
Koeck said his company grew by creating and selling smart-waste products for use in the public sector, including schools and government buildings, but was now expanding to the private-sector market as more private businesses make a commitment to sustainability. "We also have compost versions of the Bigbelly," he said.
The Bigbelly's dashboard also provides the store with additional real-time information regarding the fullness status of each smart station, recycling diversion rates, equipment health and more. Store staff can use that information to determine the best time to empty the units and avoid overflow during busy times in the store. "This allows associates to spend more time keeping the store clean and safe, while preventing trash overflows and reducing litter," Koeck said.
Fischer said the addition of the Bigbelly units is one of the many ShopRite "Green Team" initiatives designed to increase recycling and sustainability efforts at store level. The “Food Rescue” program, for example, was developed in an effort to reduce food waste and fight hunger in local communities by donating more fresh food to food pantries. The program, run through Community FoodBank of New Jersey, matches local food pantries with the stores to pick up perishable items such as bakery, meat and produce multiple times each week. ShopRite of Greater Morristown also unveiled two Tesla electric-car charging stations for guests to use at no cost in recognition of Earth Day 2016.