MUSCATINE, Iowa-With Earth Day approaching, organizations throughout Muscatine look for ways to start new sustainability efforts or lend new energy to ones they have already implemented. At Muscatine’s Hy-Vee stores, employees look forward to continuing to recycle food waste to lower their ecological impact.
For the past five years, Hy-Vee in Muscatine has worked to reduce waste from their stores as much as possible. Though they gave as much extra food to charity as they could, some always managed to go bad. To keep this food from going to a landfill, Muscatine’s Hy-Vee began recycling it though a company called Green RU. When the Muscatine Organics Recycling Center opened in 2020, the city contacted Hy-Vee about bringing their food waste there instead of shipping it away. Hy-Vee saw an opportunity to handle their food recycling locally and formed a partnership between themselves, Green RU, and the city that they hope to continue well into the future. “We donated as much of our food to pantries as possible, but there was always a portion that went to waste, and now we can use it,” explained Muscatine Area Hy-Vee Stores District Director Matt Schweizer.
Because the Muscatine Organics Recycling Center contains de-packaging equipment, it can handle virtually any food product from Hy-Vee that would have gone to waste in the past. From loose produce to packaged food items returned opened or rotten, the Muscatine Organics Recycling Center can take care of them all, separating the food from the packaging. In some cases, the packaging can get recycled itself, reducing waste even further. The food goes into anaerobic digesters, which, when operating at full capacity, will generate enough natural gas to either power certain city vehicles or to sell into the energy pipeline.
Since 2018, Muscatine’s Hy-Vees have saved 483,330 pounds of food from going to landfills. This year alone, they have sent 35,500 pounds of food to get recycled. By utilizing the Muscatine Organics Recycling Center, Schweizer hopes to continue this positive trend. “This partnership is a great thing for the city, the county, and the community because we’re able to divert so much stuff that would go to waste and make it into something useful for the city,” he said. “I feel like this is very leading edge, especially for a community our size.”
In addition to their extensive food recycling program, Muscatine’s Hy-Vees also work toward companywide sustainability goals through the sale of One Step products. The proceeds of sales from each different One Step item goes to support a different charity that works to protect the health of the environment and people around the world, such as paper towels made with recycled content that help pay for the planting of new trees.