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How to reduce waste in supermarkets 

REMONDIS Australia // 1 October 2020


Reduce, re-use and recycling options are many and varied for supermarkets, grocers and convenience stores


Education is a key catalyst in sustainability behavioural change


Separating recyclable waste into purpose-built bins can reduce waste management costs


Reducing waste in grocery stores and supermarkets

Grocery outlets, convenience stores and fruit and veg shops can immediately recycle almost three quarters of the waste volume they produce, with national players making ‘zero food waste to landfill’ pledges.

Sort through a typical supermarket or grocery store waste bin and you will find paper, cardboard and food make up 65 per cent of the weight of the contents, while 11 per cent is plastic. That means more than 70 per cent of what has been discarded as rubbish could actually be recycled, instead of going to landfill.

By putting these materials in the correct bins your business could save money via a reduced waste collection charge. Of course, you’ll also be helping our environment.


Start by avoiding buying or supplying unnecessary products. Supermarket, grocery and convenience store operators can:

  • Promote re-usable bags rather than handing out single-use plastic bags
  • Avoid using plastic containers and plastic shrink wrapping whenever possible
  • Sell off large quantities of overripe fruit and vegetables at reduced prices

To reduce packaging waste:

  • Buy in bulk. This means paying less for packaging and recycling or disposing less material
  • Choose products that have minimum packaging and can be re-used or have a long life. Give preference to suppliers who will take packaging back for re-use
  • Support local businesses by sourcing goods locally. It will mean paying less for transport and energy and could mean that less packaging is required to protect products
  • Check stock deliveries and ensure products are undamaged and go immediately to appropriate storage facilities
  • You can save money by matching your bin collection timetable to your business needs. If your bins are not normally full after a week, then consider moving to a fortnightly collection cycle

You can also:

  • Educate staff and customers by putting up signs about reducing waste and recycling
  • Train staff to ask customers whether they need a bag and to provide alternatives such as cardboard boxes, recycled paper or cloth bags.
  • Avoid giving bags or boxes that are too large. Pack an appropriate amount of items in each bag
  • Encourage customers to re-use bags or bring their own
  • Train staff how to handle produce safely to minimise damage and waste
  • Keep your work areas clean and tidy. If things are well-organised and labelled clearly, you and your staff will know where everything is
  • Encourage staff to use only the minimum resources needed for a task


  • Ask your suppliers to deliver goods and produce in re-usable containers. Then return clean, undamaged polystyrene foam packaging to your local markets and return pallets to suppliers for re-use
  • Re-use packaging for outgoing goods
  • Make it easy for customers to use cardboard boxes for packing their shopping by putting them near registers
  • Donate non perishable food items without labels and discontinued items to charities


Sort out what material you can recycle. Remember, getting recycling bins collected could be cheaper than sending waste to landfill.

If your business is situated in a shopping complex, ask the centre management about setting up a recycling service for you and other tenants. Make sure your staff, contractors and cleaners follow your recycling program and that they put materials in the correct bins. Ask your recycling service contractors for staff training signs and innovative systems.

  • Recycle meat waste, including deli items, because this is in high demand by recyclers. It must be clear of contaminants, such as plastic wrap and polystyrene trays
  • Ask your recycling service about sending food waste to an organics recycling facility
  • Help customers to buy ‘green’ goods. Display independent certification of environmental claims
  • Train your staff about the environmental benefits of your products
  • Locate public waste and recycling bins in positions that will make it easier for customers and staff to recycle

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