Natural Foods Merchandiser

Start a composting program

Setting up a composting program for your store is easier—and more cost-effective—than you may think. Here's how to do it, courtesy of John Connolly, whose composting-consulting company, JF Connolly & Associates, is based in Hampton, N.H.

Appoint a compost czar. This is often the produce manager because that department has the most compostable waste.

Figure out what to do with your compostables. Ask your local trash companies or composting facilities if they offer hauling services. You can locate facilities at, or contact your state's department of environmental protection. If you want to make your own compost, consider buying an in-vessel composter, which is a large steel or plastic drum that sells for $8,000 and up, and donating or selling the finished product to nonprofits or landscapers.

Design a collection system. This could be anything from lidded pails to wheeled waste bins (no larger than 64 gallons because food waste is heavy). Put one wherever you have a trash can. You'll also need one each in your produce, bakery, deli and floral departments. The containers should all be the same color and lined with biodegradable bags.

Get graphic. Place a laminated poster above each container detailing which materials are compostable, what's recyclable and what's trash. For a comprehensive list, check out "What's Compostable/What's Not A-Z" at And don't forget signage to alert your customers to your new composting program.

Train staff and vendors. Give everyone who throws away trash in your store a list of compostable materials. You may also need to inspect compost containers for contaminants. It's a dirty job, but posting photos of a plastic bag thrown into a compost bin is a graphic reminder of what not to do.

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