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BOD Report: BFC's Waste Stream & Ends Policy 4 PDF Print E-mail

March 2017
by Beth Neher 

The BFC exists to meet its shareholders collective needs for: A regenerative business that has a net positive environmental impact.

End 4 came up as part of a larger board discussion of the Ends Policies in November when our General Manager, Sabine Rhyne, submitted a monitoring report addressing how fully her leadership of the Co-op has brought the store into compliance with the seven Ends Policies. At the end of our discussion, the GM noted that she had not met End 4 and could not state compliance. She stated that the Co-op has more work to do to reach the goal of a net positive environmental impact, and one way of moving in that direction is to continue to reduce the waste stream.

Here are some of the facts: The Co-op’s waste stream is composed of non-recyclables that go to the landfill, and cardboard, compostable matter, comingled recyclables (e.g., bottles and cans) and paper. All aspects of the waste stream cost the Co-op money to dispose of, even the compost and recyclables.

In 2016, our contribution to the landfill fell from 74.2 tons to 71.4 tons; recycling cardboard increased from 64.3 tons to 70.7 tons; the compostables, comingled and paper parts of the waste stream rose from 27.4 tons to 31.4 tons, 6.2 tons to 8.4 tons and 3.3 tons to 4.9 tons respectively. We made progress in reducing the amount we sent to landfill and increased the amount that is composted or recycled. The Co-op also saved some money. 

And the trend continues: in the first half of FY 2017 the Co-op has sent close to 19 tons of waste to the landfill, recycled 36.4 tons of cardboard and produced 8.37 tons of compost, 2.21 tons of comingled recycling and 1.32 tons of paper for a total waste stream of 67.04 tons so far this year—less than half the total 186.7 tons of waste tons last year. Although these are incomplete half-year figures, it is clear that we are making progress.

To support efforts to reduce the waste stream, there is now a waste stream task force with members from every Co-op department. Their work is to research, analyze and find ways to get closer to achieving End 4 via reduction of the Co-op’s waste stream internally and through customer cooperation. 

This article is one way that I can contribute to broadening awareness of both the Co-op’s goal of a net positive environmental impact and of the need for as many of us as possible to contribute to lessening the waste stream. 

Recycling and reducing the waste stream in my own life is a core value, one deeply held, about which I’m surprisingly disciplined and have strong views. My own practices include: rigorous composting; washing and reusing plastic bags for shopping and storage; buying what I can—for example fruit and vegetables—without using any plastic bags at all; bringing bottles and jars to the Co-op to refill with oats, sugar, oil, syrup, spices, soy sauce and herbs, for example; just not buying if something is in excessive or unnecessary packaging (3 tomatoes on a Styrofoam tray with plastic enveloping the whole package anyone?); and keeping multiple shopping bags (with clean plastic bags inside) in my car so there is no chance of leaving them at home. 

As I thought about the waste stream and this article, the more complicated and complex things became. Garbage, trash, biodegradables, recyclables, compost: how we think about them (or not) and how we behave are affected by many factors—the wider culture in which we live, our personal circumstances and by our understanding of who we are, who we want to be and who we can be. 

Waste is a stream (or perhaps it’s actually a torrent): it comes from somewhere and goes somewhere. Where it goes and how it’s “managed” is market-based, dependent on reducing costs and making money. It is almost always driven or shipped somewhere. So, our actions are likely to involve balancing choices that have a negative environmental impact with more positive ones. The glass and cans I recycle are likely to be shipped to China for processing. Recycling them is much less a positive contribution than I had thought! 

The fact is that we live in a culture where environmentally poor choices are easier to make, or they’re the reality of what’s available to us. The complexity of factors associated with the waste stream, however, doesn’t absolve us of caring, of doing what we can, or of supporting the Co-op’s efforts to achieve a net positive environmental impact, regardless of how aspirational our vision and efforts are. The Board will continue to monitor the Co-op’s progress on this Ends policy, to see how we do as an organization in reaching the moving target of a net positive environmental impact.  And I’ll continue to try to do the same in my own life.