Foodstuffs’ new recycling drive is making a big hole in tonnes of rubbish going to landfill.

A North Island New World has cut its waste from 11 tonnes to 3.6 tonnes a month in the biggest recycling initiative by the country's largest supermarket chain.

Mike Sammons, Foodstuffs New Zealand's sustainability manager based in Wellington, said this was the best example of the success of the new national scheme by the chain.

Foodstuffs had begun its new waste management plan for Pak'nSaves and New Worlds, cutting the amount of rubbish going to landfills by hundreds of tonnes each week, he said.

"The plan has taken two years from original conception to the first stores beginning implementation in March. The key focus currently is on separating out any waste material that can be recycled for another use."

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Already, five supermarkets are in the programme. Sammons said that by the end of August 20 more would have joined and waste management audits had been carried out on 88 stores.

Foodstuffs has 50 Pak'nSave and 137 New World stores and Sammons said it made sense for them all to cut the amount they dump, but he indicated it had not been easy.

"It's not a sexy subject. For that reason it was initially hard to get people engaged - as long as the rubbish was being taken away regularly the business was generally happy," he said.

But why would supermarkets want to dump excess materials when they had a choice to recycle them and potentially make money out of that, he asked.

The waste plan has the provision for waste to be disposed of through up to 10 different streams: many supermarkets have baling equipment for cardboard boxes, clean plastic wrap from pallets is recycled into new plastic wrap, meat waste becomes pet food or tallow, bakery goods are used as pig or cow food, cooking oil is recycled, along with electrical waste and other materials. All are diverted to the most appropriate channels.

"We know there will be some teething problems with a project of this size and complexity," he said, "but the first couple of stores on the programme are already hitting 76 per cent and 85 per cent reuse rates respectively."

Where does it go?

Foodstuffs NZ supermarket waste recycling measures:

Cardboard boxes: often baled, recycled into new boxes.

Meat past use-by date: Pet food or reduced to tallow.

Fruit and vegetable offcuts: go to compost businesses.

Bakery goods: used as stock food, such as by piggeries or dairy herds.

Plastic wrap-around pallets: recycled into new plastic wrap.

Cooking oil: recycled and reprocessed.

Source: Foodstuffs NZ.