Safeway-Albertsons Distribution Center showcases sustainability
Gresham's Safeway-Albertsons Regional Distribution Center showed how being green can be implemented on a massive scale during a monthly gathering of like-minded business owners and community members last week.
The center gave tours of different sustainable practices at its almost 1 million square-foot space Wednesday morning, Aug. 28, as part of the Gresham Green Business program. The facility, 17505 N.E. San Rafael St., has implemented energy efficiency upgrades, stormwater pollution prevention and a comprehensive recycling and composting program.
Built in 1988, the original distribution center only encompassed 511,000 square feet. But four expansions — and a 2015 merger between Safeway and Albertsons — led to its current footprint.
Daryl Woods, director of distribution for Safeway-Albertsons Regional Distribution Center said the key is using smart practices to lower the facility's footprint, while also discovering cost savings in all aspects of the business.
The facility has about $58 million in product at any one time and ships 63 million product cases a year across the country. In the past week, Woods estimated about 1.3 million cases were shipped. All of the 600 employs are aware of green practices and encouraged to bring new ideas to management.
All the lights in the sprawling warehouse have been upgraded to LED and are equipped with motion-sensors, so the facility isn't wasting resources. That is important at a business that runs 24/7, with deliveries and shipments being made at all hours, Woods said.
"The biggest energy usage here is the refrigeration, which we are continually trying to improve," Woods said.
The Distribution Center stores different products at various temperatures. Dry produce is kept at 55 degrees Fahrenheit; while wet produce at 35 degrees and deli at 34 degrees. Frozen food must be kept at -5 degrees and ice cream is kept at a chilly -10 degrees.
Throughout the warehouse there are different bins for waste — separating wood, plastic and other materials to allow them to be easily recycled.
The company tries to avoid as much waste as possible, Woods said. The process in the grocery stores is to first mark items down, then offer them to local nonprofit organizations to feed the hungry. In 2018, Safeway and Albertsons donated more than 5 million meals to Oregon families, mainly through the Oregon Food Bank.
Any food that passes beyond the edible benchmark is composted through third-party groups, Woods said. The Gresham center diverted 70 million pounds away from the landfill last year, including 785 tons of plastic, 21,000 tons of cardboard, 112 tons of metal, 54 tons of lead acid batteries and 14,000 tons of compost.
"One of the most difficult things we face is what to do with the compostable material," Woods said.
Warehouse workers use sustainable plastic pallets rather than wood, because they are lighter to handle and can be recycled, Woods said. Reusable plastic containers for produce can also be washed and reused.
One of the newest innovations in the facility, and a favorite among the employees, are robotic plastic wrappers, Woods said, which were introduced to the facility this year. The autonomous robots are able to drive themselves to a pallet filled with goods and shrink wrap it. The process takes up less space than the old machinery, and is safer for the workers in case products topple during the process, Woods said. Safeway-Albertsons officials said Gresham is one of the first places to use the technology.
"All of these processes are important," Woods said.
Gresham Green Business provides free outreach to help reduce waste, water and energy while certifying businesses throughout the community for their sustainable efforts.
During the event, Gresham Green Business gave out several awards to recognize local businesses for their efforts. The recipients were:
-- Safeway Albertsons Regional Distribution Center
-- Shop Girl Consignment
-- Microchip Technology Inc.
-- Cascade Corporation
-- Christina J. Price, Edward Jones
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