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Rubicon Pilots Driving Customers of All Sizes Toward Zero Waste

Volunteers from the Food Shuttle of Western NY pick up boxes of bread from Wegmans | Image credit: Wegmans

Working with customers of all sizes, B Corporation Rubicon Global is advancing its mission to end waste worldwide through delivering comprehensive waste reduction and recycling programs for its partners. The movement towards a zero-waste environment is growing in industries like restaurants, retail, education, grocery stores, and small and large corporations alike, and Rubicon is situated to help businesses achieve their goals in this area.

Wegmans Food Markets

Wegmans Food Markets — a grocery chain with 98 stores across the eastern US — is working with Rubicon to expand on a successful pilot program in pursuit of its commitment to reduce food loss and waste by 50 percent by 2030. Rubicon supports Wegmans’ commitment in various ways, one being bi-monthly visits to the stores rolling out Wegmans Zero Waste program. Rubicon analyzes each store’s waste streams and later reviews its findings with store leadership. Rubicon and Wegmans are then able to walk through specific departments and help the store team learn what can and cannot be recycled, improving their overall diversion. With this and other support tactics, Wegmans’ stores in the Zero Waste program are seeing success. The pilot store in Canandaigua, NY achieved a recycling rate of 82.6 percent in just one year. Following the successful completion of the one-year pilot at the Canandaigua store, Wegmans has expanded the program to 20 additional stores, with more to come in 2019.

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In 2017, 70 Wegmans stores diverted 32.5 million pounds of food waste from landfills through the company’s programs. The chain donated 14.5 million pounds of perishable and non-perishable food to local food pantries and food banks. All 98 stores participate in the company’s perishable and non-perishable food donation programs, while more than 80 stores participate in food scrap diversion programs.

The Weber School

Meanwhile, The Weber School — a high school in Sandy Springs, GA — is actively working with Rubicon to improve diversion rates, implement recycling programs, and educate students about the importance of environmental responsibility. The journey began with a waste audit in March: A team from Rubicon and student volunteers investigated the disposal habits of the School’s students and staff. The waste materials at Weber are currently dual-separated between MSW (municipal solid waste) and SSR (single-stream recycling). The Rubicon team divided the waste material into five different categories: landfill, SSR, compost, plastic film and that to be sent to TerraCycle — a recycling company specializing in hard-to-recycle materials. Next, the team applied the RUBICONMethod approach to outline how the Weber School could maintain a successful recycling program in six simple steps (DIVERT: Determine, Initiate, Vocalize, Eliminate, Roll-Out and Track). The RUBICONMethod was created in partnership with Recycle Across America and TerraCycle to help organizations understand recycling’s often confusing processes and translate ideas into tangible actions. For the Weber School, this included adding signage to relay more recycling information to students and staff, adding recycling bins in more locations and launching a friendly competition between the four different classes to improve diversion rates, to name a few.

The audit showed a lot of things that the Weber School is doing well: The current diversion rate for the average classroom is 91 percent, with no contamination; and hallways have a potential diversion rate of 74 percent. The students are actively recycling their pre-consumer food waste packaging directly into the recycling dumpster and are eager to continue to learn more about sustainability efforts and what they can do to improve their school. By pushing a standardized system of procurement, bin placement, signage, employee and student education and analysis, Rubicon sees potential to help the Weber School continue to increase its impressive diversion rates.

Best Small Business in America

To recognize commendable efforts on the waste and sustainability front nationwide, Rubicon is currently running its annual Best Small Business in America contest to reward local businesses that strive to make a difference in their communities. Now in its second year, Rubicon will select 15 deserving finalists, and in an online public vote, determine which will win the $10,000 award (entries for this year’s contest are closed and finalists are being selected — you can vote for your favorite business on November 5th). The top prize in 2017 went to Sugar Beet Food Co-op, a grocery store located just west of Chicago.

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