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Waste Reduction in Food Retail: Case Study Report of the People's Food Co-op

CSS Publication Number
Full Publication Date
April 1991

This case study documents waste reduction by the Packard store of the People's Food Cooperative (PFC) in Ann Arbor. Process and economic analyses are done to compare sales procedures for two bulk liquids and their prepackaged equivalents. Many other waste reduction methods practiced by the Packard co-op are also described and quantified. Major finding are:

-Sale of bulk items analyzed in this report significantly reduce solid waste. Selling one pound of olive oil in bulk reduces solid waste generation by .35 pounds, while bulk shampoo sales reduce waste by .06 pounds per pound of product sold.

-Prepackaged goods are more costly to sell than bulk items. Inventory, display space, and labor for handling and stocking costs more for prepacked items than for bulk goods, even though bulk products must be weighed and priced at check out.

-Bulk products are sold at a lower retail price and with lower total added costs than prepackaged items. The Packard co-op makes more money on bulk items than it does on prepackaged items.

-The Packard co-op's democratic management and environmental commitment favor the sale of bulk products. Waste reduction and environmentally sound business practices are top priorities at Packard.

Packard also sells many bulk items not analyzed in this report. Sale of these liquid and dry items may result in waste reduction comparable to that documented in the live oil and shampoo case study.

Waste is further reduced by a wide range of other activities. The following practices address source reduction: packaging reduction (on products packaged at the co-op, and also by co-op request on products received from wholesalers); packaging reuse, including sale of products in reusable containers; and surplus food donation. Additional waste reduction is also achieved by composting and recycling some store generated items and returns from customers. The Packard People's Food Co-op diverts 43 tons per year from the state's solid waste stream as a result of its broadly based waste reduction practices.

Research Areas
Food Systems and Consumer Products

bulk food, packaging, source reduction

Publication Type
Digital Object Identifier
Full Citation

Keoleian, G.A., J.W. Bulkley, R. DeYoung, A. Duncan, E. McLaughlin, D. Menerey, M. Monroe and T. Swenson. (1991) "Waste Reduction in Food Retail: Case Study Report of the People's Food Co-op." Office of Waste Reduction Services, State of Michigan Departments of Natural Resources and Commerce: Lansing, MI. 1-26.