Submitted by Heidi Matonis
Through my work with Waste Free Greenwich and my vegan food business, I have forged a relationship with the Cingari family, owners of eleven ShopRites throughout Connecticut. These interactions afforded me the incredible opportunity to learn about their deep commitment to sustainable practices and their creation of a model for waste reduction for our community. ShopRite is the definition of a good neighbor, demonstrating the positive impacts on our environment that local businesses can have.
Recently, Dominick Cingari led Waste Free Greenwich on a behind the scenes tour of ShopRite at Commerce Park located on the border of Stamford and Old Greenwich. Dominick, in addition to many other duties, also spearheads all the families’ green initiatives. He inherited the responsibility of waste management from his father and transformed it into a virtual zero waste vision. Remarkably, the company has voluntarily
gone the extra mile to cut waste, in order to meet their sustainability goals and become a greener community partner.
The ShopRite stores generally employ a three tier food waste system. Their first priority is to feed the hungry through donation. The Commerce Park location sends approximately 1,500-1,600 pounds of food each week to the Food Bank of Lower Fairfield County. If there is ample space, the material is further source separated for animal feed. Finally, other organic waste, such as corn husks, damaged produce and expired bread, is diverted to a compactor to be transported to New Milford Farms, a licensed commercial composting facility.
As for recycling, anything and everything that can be recycled, including cardboard, paper packaging, plastics, metals and even used gift cards and register receipt cores, is baled and trucked to Elizabeth NJ, where a coop of 230 ShopRites own their own recycling center. For every four trucks the store receives, one leaves full of materials to be recycled.
Cooking oil is picked up by a biofuel company, and hazardous waste is taken away to be disposed of properly. Fluorescent light bulbs even have their own reuse plan and are neatly piled for their return.
Dominick emphasized that once the system was put in place, their associates quickly adopted the practices and take great pride in participating. As new workers start, they are taught by the veterans to divert waste from the garbage.
The Waste Free Greenwich team asked Dominick what his nemesis was – the one thing they have not found a solution for. He grimaced and said, “Customer waste. Customers throw anything into the garbage and I can’t ask my staff to pick through and remove
what doesn’t belong.”
On our tour with Dominick, we discovered how even a large commercial establishment can be a steward of the environment, an example of sustainability for our community and a great neighbor!