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Food Coop: Zero-Waste Shopping and Customized Collection to Serve a Consumer Cooperative Community


Their commitment to environmental stewardship and reducing their impact brought them to CleanRiver as they looked to expand their zero-waste shopping experience and recycling program.

The Food Co-Op is located in Port Townsend, Washington and is owned by the very customers that shop there.  In a small town of 10K people, over 6K of that are committed customers.  And with 10K square foot of retail floor, they do way more business than the space according to Front End Manager Dave Dunn.

Port Townsend is an extremely tight community where people really care about where their dollars go.  Ethical decisions really drive the economy from alternative transportation to sustainable shopping.  “As management we are independent and very lucky to be supported to be able to make our decisions.”  The Food Co-Op is all about shopping and supporting local and their commitment to sustainability is embedded in their mission and values. A mission which strongly resonates with it’s customers and the community.


In the years that have followed, the Food Co-Op has continued to work to expand their waste diversion program and was looking for alternative solutions to support their unique collection needs and the zero-waste shopping experience.  A big piece of The Food Co-Op‘s sustainability program was to not only increase recycling but to increase the RE-USE of items.   They worked closely with CleanRiver to customize their containers to separate and collect key items such as paper bags, plastic bags, glass jars and most interestingly enough, egg cartons.

With their plastic bag collection they bring the bags to another local big grocer that in turn takes them to a plastic lumber company. The paper bags are collected (and held for 24 hours before cleaning) and then placed at the CleanRiver Station so the paper bags can be re-used by everyone at check-out.


“Once we saw how effective the plastic and paper bag return program was going, we had the idea to add another stream for our egg cartons.” Dave explains that “I reached out to CleanRiver once again and started talking to their Senior Sustainability Advisor, Tom Lembo who really helped me design my concept. I was really blown away with the customization process and how easy it was. You would think that designing a whole new bin for collection that hasn’t been done before would be a hurdle, but it was the opposite. It was actually too easy. Tom knew all the right questions to ask to help me turn my vision into reality and get the most effective design for our needs. He started sending design ideas immediately and we worked from there. And on top of that the pricing was amazing and extremely affordable for the white glove service, shipping and the high quality of the product.”


“What we have now is a unit that allows empty egg cartons to be neatly stacked next to the rest of the streams. We are collecting about 80 cartons a day. We empty it about twice a day and box them up to put on top of the egg case. Now our customers can re-use the cartons to purchase their farm fresh eggs in bulk. We also have our local farms come pick them up (who sell us back our eggs) as well as local community members such as art teachers etc. who are welcome to come and collect the cartons to be re-used. We’re a community hub and this whole program really supports that.

The whole look of the unit is very tight and most importantly the CleanRiver Recycling Units really convey a greater message of our commitment to community. Plus the customized graphics keep it on brand and it makes it easy for our customers and staff to do the right thing. This is for a community and our recycling program and collection bins are really a further extension of the community hug. It’s for everyone’s use and CleanRiver has helped us further the process.”


Since The Food Co-Op has launched the units, according to Dave they have seen a dramatic increase in the use and waste diversion over-all.  “It’s super easy to service and with the big increase in stream collection and re-use, my only advice to other organizations is always to think a little bit bigger, because people are going to end up using it more than you thought!”

When asked what The Food Co-Op has to say about CleanRiver’s products and services, Dave shared:

“REALLY EASY TO WORK WITH!!!  I just want everyone to know that CleanRiver really lowers any hurdles that a customer may have and they make it as easy and seamless as possible.  And for the quality of product and the professionalism we experienced, I want people to know how inexpensive and affordable CleanRiver’s customized bins are.”