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10 Things You Need to Know About Sobeys’ New Waste Diversion Program

October 20, 2021

We continue to take strides to divert and reduce waste. Read about our latest effort: The ORCA Digester

1. Sobeys’ customers care about waste reduction and landfill diversion

“Many of our customers are concerned about the environment, and it comes up in conversation a lot,” says Jim Aguanno, Manager of Sobeys Laird & Wicksteed in Toronto. “I get asked about what my store is doing to divert or reduce food waste at least twice a week, and I’m proud to have a good answer.”

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We want to take every garbage truck off the road.

2. What Sobeys is doing to divert food waste.

We’re investing in medium-sized machines – hidden in our back rooms – that will create big change and reduce our average methane gas and carbon emission output. The machine is called the ORCA Digester — and it’s a game-changer.

3. The creators of the ORCA want to take garbage trucks off the road.

A Canadian company with lofty goals, ORCA Digesters is a global leader in food waste recycling that doesn’t require truck collection. Founded in 2012 and headquartered in Toronto, the company is transforming the world of food waste with units big and small diverting waste from landfill wherever they’re installed: from restaurants, hotels, and stadiums to universities, cruise ships, and grocery stores. “The ORCA technology is the most efficient and sustainable method of disposing food waste,” says CEO Louis Anagnostakos. “Our ‘No-Truck’ solution to food waste is more efficient, ten times better for the environment than composting and half the price of alternative recycling options.”

4. The ORCA replicates natural digestion.

So, how does an ORCA work? The machine acts as one big stomach. When food goes in, it meets a microbial mixture and proprietary biochips that, together with oxygen, triggers food breakdown. Arms inside the machine rotate the mixture to ensure maximum oxygen exposure and speed up the process, and digests everything inside into a liquid that’s safe to flow into existing drainage systems and back into the waterway.

5. ORCA Digester pilots are in stores in Western and Central Canada.

From B.C. to Toronto, ORCA Digesters are being piloted at select Sobeys, Farm Boy, Longos and Safeway stores. In spring 2020, Sobeys Laird & Wicksteed in Toronto were one of the first stores to test out the ORCA.

6. The pilot team fell in love with their ORCA (almost) immediately.

“Of course, we were apprehensive at first. We wanted to make sure that it was a viable program, that the separating, organizing, and so on, didn’t create more labour,” says Aguanno, who had experienced organic waste recovery systems in the past, before he started with Sobeys, and found many to be messy, time consuming, and, at times, smelly. But the ORCA is different, he says. “It’s clean and easy to operate without mess or hassle.” It didn’t take long for Aguanno to see its value.

7. The team was quick to get on board, too.

The staff loves it, too. “They were excited to try a new piece of technology,” says Aguanno. “They continue to be excited about how easy it is to use.” But for Aguanno, one of the best moments was when the ORCA won over the biggest skeptic. “The manager who was most resistant, who was most worried it would just make extra work, became so excited about the science behind it – as well as how easy it is to use – that he took ownership of it – was organizing, answering questions, and using it the most.”

8. The ORCAs can digest more than the human stomach.

Do you know that our food is made up of, on average, 85% water? That makes organic material incredibly easy to break down. Trimmings from to-go fruit and veggie platters? Sure. Peels from juices squeezed in store? You bet! Food that has passed its due date? Of course. Meat scraps and bones from our Butcher counter? That too! Like our own stomachs, the processing time can vary based on how much is stuffed in – and how heavy it is – as Aguanno learned when he started using the system in his store. “We try to categorize our organic waste to get the most out of our machine. While produce trimmings take about an hour or so, heavier items like meat and fish take more time.”

One ORCA unit can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 400 tonnes.

9. The ORCA Digester is helping to save the environment.

Using one ORCA unit can help save 20,000 single-use plastic garbage bags per year, and because there’s fewer garbage bags to collect, one ORCA can reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 400 tonnes per year In other words, just one ORCA’s impact can be the equivalent of taking 35 cars off the road each year, or 25 homes powered by electricity.

10. The future for Sobeys and ORCA looks good.

Sobeys’ in-store ORCA systems have proven to divert more than 80% of their organic waste from landfills, and we’d say, that’s a resounding success. Next step? Roll the program out into more stores, and continue to do OurPartTM for future generations.

To read more about Sobeys’ efforts against food waste, read here

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