Convenience store operator Lawson Inc. will launch a recycling system to produce fertilizer from leftover food and sell produce grown with it at its stores in central Japan.
Lawson, which will introduce the system in the current business year through next March, already has a similar recycling program in western Japan and plans to eventually roll it out in other areas of the country.
Apart from helping to reduce food waste, the initiative will lessen the burden on staff at stores, which often suffer from a shortage of workers, who currently have to dispose of unsold food items. That task will be handed over to recycling business operators.
Under the recycling plan, leftover bento box meals and onigiri rice balls at convenience stores in Mie Prefecture will be turned into fertilizer at a recycling plant, and the produced fertilizer will be distributed to designated farmers in the city of Toyokawa in neighboring Aichi Prefecture.
Those designated farmers will grow cabbage using the fertilizer, and some Lawson stores in central and western Japan will stock the produce.
Lawson started a similar effort in Tottori Prefecture around 10 years ago, and it has been selling daikon radish produced there to nationwide customers.
As the number of contracted farmers is on the rise, Lawson sees the areas capable of building such a recycling system increasing.
“We hope to seek greater understanding of the issue of food waste among consumers” through spreading the local recycling system, a Lawson official said.