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Wednesday, November 30, 2016

A Comparative Case Study: Plastic Film Recycling at Two Simon Malls

At the November 17 Annual Elemental Impact (Ei) Annual Partner Meeting, Tonya Randell with Moore Recycling Associates announced the Comparative Case Study: Plastic Film Recycling at Two Simon Malls release. Prepared by Ei on behalf of W.R.A.P. - Wrap Recycling Action Program, the case study chronicles the Charlotte plastic film recycling programs pioneered within the Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) - Shopping Mall Pilot

Initiated by members of the American Chemistry Council's Flexible Film Recycling Group in partnership with GreenBlue's Sustainable Packaging Coalition and The Association of Plastic Recyclers, W.R.A.P.'s purpose is to reinvigorate plastic film recycling. The goal is to double recycling to 2 billion tons by 2020.

In 2011 Ei Industry Experts & Pioneers embarked on a commercial plastic film recycling journey targeted at moderate generators where standard-sized bale assembly was not practical. Development of a city-wide plastic film recycling template was the intended destination. 

In the 2010 | 2011 time frame, plastic film generated at shopping malls skyrocketed due to shifts in garment packaging. Previously, garments were bulk packaged for retail sales. With significant increases in internet sales, manufacturers shifted to individual, clear plastic film garment packaging for shipping.

Doug Stoner, Louis & Matt at
first plastic film recycling meeting
With the introduction of commercial single-stream recycling - paper fibers, metals and other recyclable materials mixed together for the collection vehicle - the higher plastic film volume increased a mall's waste hauling expenses. Single-stream recycling is delivered to a MRF (materials recovery facility) where the material is separated via an integrated system of conveyor belts, optical sorting, blowers, and hand separation. Since it wraps around the sorting equipment, plastic film is considered a contaminant in single-stream recycling.

Yet plastic film is a valuable commodity when collected separately and baled for sale. Historically, plastic film rebates exceed OCC (old corrugated cardboard) by three to five times on a per pound basis. Thus, there is a strong business case for separated plastic film recycling at malls: film rebates and reduced landfill hauling | tipping charges more than offset program costs.

A strong Ei Team came together to create a shopping mall plastic film recycling program template. Ei Partner Louis Herrera of Novolex (then Hilex Poly) was the visionary who devised the overall plan. As a major plastic bag manufacturer, Novolex was eager to purchase the film as post-consumer recycled content for their bag production.

Ray is all smiles with his
Orwak baler
The mall plastic film recycling model centered around on-site baling. Ei Partner Mark Lanning of Orwak shared his expertise on setting up on-site baling systems. A baler manufacturer, Orwak offers a mini baler perfect for a small recycling center located in a mall's back-of-the-house.

Ei Industry Pioneer Simon Malls was eager to recycle the abundant film generated by their tenants. In addition to cost-savings incentives, major national tenants were pressuring Simon to recycle their plastic film. Then Simon Director of Waste & Recycling Matt Hupp worked closely with the Ei Team on program development.

A Charlotte Simon Mall, Concord Mills (CM) - the SFCI Shopping Center Pilot - was selected as the first mall plastic film recycling pilot. In addition to excellent mall logistics, CM General Manager Ray Soporowski was an industry veteran committed to sustainability and "doing the right thing." The stage was set!

First on the agenda was a visit to Simon's hometown Indianapolis for a tour | education of a typical Simon Mall. The following day Hilex Poly (now Novolex) hosted a tour of their plastic film recycling plant a couple hours south in North Vernon, IN.

The Ei Team @ Concord Mills
On the second tour, Matt, Louis and Ei Founder Holly Elmore traveled to Charlotte. The trio met with CM & SouthPark Mall management to assess the current plastic film status. SouthPark is a sister Simon Mall located within Mecklenburg County. During the second tour, Mecklenburg County Government joined forces with the Ei Team and provided a local support network.

In August 2012 the CM plastic film recycling pilot launched with ease, grace & celebration. The following month SouthPark launched their plastic film recycling program.

For the case study ROI (return on investment) analysis, CM and SouthPark 2015 calendar year program stats were used. At the Annual Ei Partner Meeting, Tonya brought several hard copies of the case study published three days earlier.

Ei's pioneering role in commercial plastic film recycling is documented on the Plastic Film Recycling website page. The Ei FB album, Source-Separated Materials Recycling: building a city-wide network, is a pictorial recap of the work-in-progress. Note the Plastic Film Recycling Template expanded to the Source-Separated Material Recycling Template.

Plastic film ready for the baler
The IMPACT Blog article, Ei 2016: Year of Recognition, chronicles the powerful 2016 Annual Ei Meeting and features Tonya's presentation on the case study and beyond.

With the Comparative Case Study: Plastic Film Recycling at Two Simon Malls release, the Ei Team is ready to reconvene with W.R.A.P. and continue the profound work started with Simon Malls. The platform is built, the stage is set, and Ei is anxious to continue pioneering commercial plastic film recycling programs.

Sunday, November 6, 2016

A Recycling or Contamination Crisis? an article series

Over the past year numerous mainstream media articles presented a national recycling crisis. In John Tierney's October 2105 New York Times article The Reign of Recycling, Waste Management (WM) CEO David Steiner is quoted, "If you believe recycling is good for the planet and that we need to do more of it, then there’s a crisis to confront."

Ei Chair Scott Seydel in front of a
MRF single-stream recycling delivery
Yet the crisis seems to revolve around WM's profitability within single-stream recycling systems. According to the September 2015 Fortune article The American recycling business is a mess: Can Big Waste fix it?, single-stream recycling is a sorting method WM pioneered in 2001. Under WM and other large waste hauler influence, single-stream recycling evolved into the only available option for curbside and corporate recycling programs in many municipalities.

In single-stream recycling, common recyclable materials - fiber (cardboard, paper), plastics, metals and glass - are placed in a single bin for later sorting at a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). Once sorted by type, material is baled for sale within the commodity market. Beginning around 2009 the big waste haulers started switching over to single-stream recycling as their offered service.

Unfortunately, contamination was rampant in single-stream recycling systems from its introduction. Contamination generally falls into three categories: 1> non-recyclable items 2> food & melted ice and 3> glass. 

In the beginning, many of the non-recyclable items in single-stream collection were due to lack of clear signage and consumer confusion. For example, bin signage may read "Plastics," rather than the specific accepted plastics. Thus, consumers include ALL plastics - lawn chairs, hoses etc. - in the single-stream bin.

Food waste on recyclable foodservice packaging is contamination. In addition to rendering the packaging unfit for recycling, the food waste may contaminate nearby material. Water (melted ice from fountain soft drinks and other beverages) causes paper to stick to plastics; the paper and plastic are impractical to separate in MRF sorting systems. Therefore, the plastic, along with the paper stuck to it, are deposited in the landfill-destined trash pile.

MRF separated glass - filled with
plastic & paper contamination
Most single-stream recycling is collected in packer trucks where the material is crushed for transportation. When crushed, glass breaks into small shards that contaminate the paper, plastics and metals in the load. Additionally, glass (essentially sand) causes significant wear and tear on hauling trucks and MRF sorting equipment.

In December 2009 the Container Recycling Institute (CRI) issued the comprehensive Understanding economic and environmental impacts of single-stream collection systems white paper. Within the paper, research findings forewarned of single-stream perils: single-stream recycling increases diversion from landfill rates yet decreases recycling rates due to contamination.

The U.S. EPA Sustainable Materials Management Web Academy presented the webinar, Single-Stream Recycling: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly, in July 2011. Within the webinar, the presenters address the effectiveness of a system designed for ease of collection. The ZWA Blog article, Single-Stream Recycling: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly, gives a synopsis of the informative webinar.

If contamination was rampant since launching, how did the waste haulers make the necessary profits to drive single-stream recycling to the predominant, often only, recycling option available for communities and corporations at-large?

2015 McCormick Place recycling bin
w/ clear signage, next to waste bin.
The answer is within commodity market pricing. As the recycling commodity markets regained strength from the 2008 pricing plummets, MRFs made profits even with significant contamination. Markets for contaminated material remained reasonably stable with China purchasing the strong majority of the "dirty material."

Large waste haulers often invested in their own MRFs to complement landfill investments. Thus, the hauler collected tipping fees from landfill-bound, contaminated MRF material.

A robust commodity market through mid-2014 masked the contamination flaws within single-stream recycling systems.

Beginning in mid-2014, recycling commodity market pricing started a downward spiral. At the same time China cut U.S. purchases significantly and demanded cleaner material. Contaminated material prices severely declined and in some instances the market disintegrated. Suddenly, contaminated material was perceived as an expensive program cost versus a system by-product. 

For larger generators, on-site source separation is best materials management practices and improves the bottom line. As noted in the ZWA Blog article, Zero waste moves from "best" to standard operating practices, the Piazza Produce source-separated material recycling program generated $288,000 of cost-savings in 2015; the program continued to improve the bottom line during soft recycling markets.

Separated material at the
S-SMRT Pilot
As a raw material in manufacturing operations, clean recyclable material retains value. When there are strong local markets, larger generators often circumvent the commodities market and sell directly to the manufacturer. The Elemental Impact (Ei) Source-Separated Materials Recycling Template (S-SRT) is grounded in clean material source-separation and direct, local sales to manufacturers. Committed to integrity, the S-SRT tagline is Contamination is a Mistake!

Thus, the recycling crisis touted by David Steiner in mainstream media is a contamination crisis.

As the first in a series, this article's purpose is to establish the contamination crisis scenario. Following articles will address available solutions to overhaul corporate recycling programs, whether at an individual location or for the municipality, into systems that make good business, community and environmental sense.

In general, the articles will address corporate recycling with little to no focus on curbside recycling. Intended topics include:

  • Waste Prevention - working with the supply chain on transport packaging to eliminate trash packaging; ensuring no waste is created when products are sold to customers.
  • WE Consciousness | Culture - ensuring organization employees work in unison towards common goals within a supportive corporate culture; includes working in partnership with the supply chain and customers.
    clear communication at
    an employee bulletin board
  • Hauler | Generator Responsibility - taking responsibility for contamination within a recycling stream; using WE Consciousness, the hauler & customer work together to craft recycling programs that generate clean streams; culture plays a critical role.
  • Clear Communication - educating employers and guests on proper placement for material and trash; includes clear, effective signage & best bin practices.
  • Local Infrastructure - working with grass roots recycling companies on flexible programs unique to the local end markets; may attract new manufacturers to the local market if a significant volume of their raw material is generated within the community.
With a positive flavor, the articles will focus on success stories and how to engineer profitable recycling systems.

It is time for the corporate community to exercise their power of consumer demand when it comes to materials management and resource recovery. Once industry leaders break the single-stream cycle, the big haulers will follow with crafting an alternative, effective system. Simple Economics 101 may prove the best pathway to fixing a broken recycling system riddled with contamination.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Zero waste moves from "best" to standard operating practices

With recent industry developments, zero waste segues from "the green thing to do" into respected material management that makes good business and environmental sense. Veteran zero waste companies substantiate clean, contaminant-free material source-separated on-site improves the corporate bottom line, even in "soft" recycling markets.

USZWB Board & USGBC President
signing the official agreement
Further validating zero waste's prominent role in corporate material management, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announced on October 5 they joined forces with the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) to advance zero business practices. USZWBC will integrate into the global Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) community that drives sustainability across all sectors. 

GBCI will assume responsibility for the ongoing management and evolution of the Zero Waste Facility Certification (ZWFC) and Zero Waste Business Associate programs created by USZWBC. Zero waste principles will align with GBCI’s offerings. 

The ZWFC joins a family of prominent certifications administered by the GBCI: the PEER standard for power systems, the WELL building standard, the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), Parksmart, EDGE (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiency) and the GRESB benchmark, which is used by institutional investors to improve the sustainability performance of the global property sector. 

As the home to LEED - Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design - Certification, the USGBC is the recognized global standard for sustainable building design, construction, operations and maintenance.

The ZWA Blog article, USGBC Empowers Zero Waste Industry: USGBC & USZWBC join forces, details the monumental industry announcement.

Along with the USGBC, national trade associations are vehicles to educate the corporate community on the zero waste business value. In October two prominent industry trade associations - the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) and the National Wooden Pallet & Container Association (NWPCA) - published front cover zero waste articles in their October hard copy magazines.

Pallet Central:

Published by the NWPCA, Pallet Central features Zero Waste Makes Good Business & Environmental Sense as the September | October issue front cover story. Written by Elemental Impact Founder Holly Elmore on behalf of the USZWBC, the article is introductory in nature.

For zero waste success, two prime ingredients are necessary: 1> a culture shift from waste management to materials management and 2> a practical staged-in approach complete with education, clear signage, and employee engagement. Top management buy-in is critical to shifting corporate culture along with providing employee incentives and support. Quantifying, communicating and rewarding success builds strong enthusiasm and support for long-term zero waste program success.

A first step on the zero waste journey is a waste audit. An audit determines the baseline of current practices in-place as well as the quantity and type of materials generated at the facility. In addition, the audit reveals the "easy win" areas, which are perfect program starting points.

Throughout the article, the strong business case for zero waste is emphasized. For example, in 2015 Gold Level ZWFC Piazza Produce “sold” 733.8 tons of wood pallets (roughly 66,700 pallets) for approximately $163,500. In contrast, estimated landfill charges for the pallets were $65,700, including hauling and tipping fees.

USZWBC Board Member and Piazza Produce Facility Manager Scott Lutocka often says “There’s Ca$h in Your Tra$h!” and “You don’t know what you don’t know (about the value in your waste stream)!” … and Scott understands well the cash value of Piazza Produce trash! 

Scott by the hardworking
Piazza baler
In 2015 alone, the Piazza Produce zero waste program generated $288,034 in cost-savings. Since launching in 2005, Piazza Produce enjoyed a cumulative $1.56 million in bottom line improvements from successful zero waste practices. Even with the soft recycling markets, established corporate zero waste programs continue to produce cost-savings and improve the bottom line. 

Zero waste is a team sport! Product packaging, including manufacturing raw materials, is a significant contributor to landfill-destined items. By working in tandem with the supply chain, recyclable or reusable packaging may often replace "trash" packaging.

Platinum ZWFC at their five U.S. Plants, Earth Friendly Products (EFP) established a Supplier Code of Conduct including a sustainability questionnaire. Negative questionnaire answers require an explanation. With team spirit, EFP trains their suppliers on zero waste practices. EFP Vice-President of Sustainability and Education Nadereh Afsharmanesh visits vendor manufacturing plants to witness zero waste practices in-place and provide helpful recommendations.

As it closes, the article notes the pathway to zero waste success is well established with the pioneers open to sharing their lessons learned and proven practices implemented. USZWBC veteran members share experiences with those embarking on the zero waste journey. According to USZWBC Founder & Executive Director Stephanie Barger: 
“USZWBC is a solutions based organization and provides many resources for their members and the community to vet ideas and challenges. Our Advisory Board members can assist with working on solutions for individuals or an industry along with leading task forces or developing technical committees for more challenging long-term issues. Our resource library contains toolkits, case studies and other educational information.”
Inside Supply Management

While the Pallet Central article was introductory in nature, Inside Supply Management's (ISM) October cover story, Full Circle: Supply management can play a key role in the circular economy, working with suppliers to eliminate waste and drive financial value, delves into the broader spectrum inherent within the circular economy. ISM is the Institute for Supply Management's official industry publication.

Written by ISM Publications Coordinator Lisa Arnseth, the article is an excellent overview of zero waste's role within the circular economy along with specific examples. Dell Computers is a prime article feature with their impressive closed loop commitment. Jennifer Allison, Dell director of supply chain sustainability, emphasizes the importance of a systems approach with her quote:
“One of the most important things in understanding the circular economy is that we’re talking about systems — not just products, programs or initiatives. Looking at the whole system is when change begins to make a significant difference. Technology is a great tool for measuring and analyzing systems, understanding processes and identifying inefficiencies.”
EFP is another article feature. Using quotes and examples provided by Nadereh, the article gives examples of EFP's team work with their supply chain. Nadereh's hands-on approach with supply chain management is effective at preventing "trash" packaging.

Within the circular economy, the zero waste definition is beyond material management practices at a particular manufacturing or other facility. Waste inherent within delivered products is critical to achieving circular economy zero waste. If a product was manufactured in a wasteful facility, then the product brings intangible waste into the customer's operations. 

Working in tandem with their supply chain, EFP supports their zero waste demands with complimentary training. As mentioned in the Pallet Central article, Nadereh visits supplier operations to monitor material management systems in-place and offer assistance.

An industry leader, ISM published The Journey to a Zero Waste Supply Chain in March 2013 written by Ei Founder Holly Elmore. The ZWA Blog article, Supply Chain Critical to Zero Waste Success, gives an article overview along with examples from Subaru's operations.

Nadereh with recycling bins
on the plant floor
When researching the October article, Lisa reconnected with Holly for industry referrals and an in-depth interview. Emphasizing the team spirit approach to working with the supply chain, Holly says "“Remember, it’s about working in a partnership with suppliers, and not dictating changes. Go to the table with your suppliers and work together.”

The article copy flows from the big circular economy picture to specific details for implementing a successful zero waste program. Nadereh advises "“Look for small wins, and build on those foundations.”

As the article closes, the importance of corporate culture is emphasized with Holly's quote:
 “It’s a matter of corporate culture, stemming from the C-suite, the board of directors and the stockholders. Sustainability is a long-term commitment that requires, at times, short-term investments or temporary financial shortcomings. But in the long run, if it is done with integrity and committed planning with the right resources plugged in, the ROI will be there."

Global leaders like Dell are grounding the pathway to a future circular economy; national icons like Piazza Produce and EFP are substantiating the current economics inherent within strong materials management

With the USGBC and prominent trade associations embracing zero waste as a core business value, zero waste moves beyond best operating practices into standard operating practices. Stay tuned to witness how the powerful synergies flow into a "world without waste!"

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

USGBC Empowers Zero Waste Industry: USGBC & USZWBC join forces

This summer the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) stepped into Zero Waste WE Consciousness with an empowering announcement!

On July 1, 2016, the USGBC issued a LEED Interpretation allowing documentation for a facility certified by the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) to stand in for several LEED for Building Operations and Maintenance (LEED O+M) prerequisites and credits. The USGBC's aim is to reduce the burden for buildings pursuing both certifications.

Now, if a building earned USZWBC Zero Waste Facility Certification (ZWFC) and the scope of the project (i.e., the project boundary) is the same as a project pursuing LEED O+M certification, the USZWBC certification can be used to document LEED credits, provided the corresponding USZWBC credit is earned. A scorecard for the ZWFC must be provided to demonstrate specific credit achievement.

As the home to LEED - Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design - Certification, the USGBC is the recognized global standard for sustainable building design, construction, operations and maintenance.

The ZWA Blog article, USGBC Steps in Zero Waste WE Consciousness, announces the important industry achievement and defines WE Consciousness.

... and on October 5, 2016 the USGBC fully immerses in Zero Waste WE Consciousness with the following announcement: 
The USGBC and USZWBC are formally joining forces to advance zero waste business practices. USZWBC will be integrated into the global Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) community that drives sustainability across all sectors. GBCI will assume responsibility for the ongoing management and evolution of the ZWFC and Zero Waste Business Associate programs created by USZWBC, and the Zero Waste principles will be aligned with GBCI’s offerings.
Established in 2008, GBCI exclusively administers project certifications and professional credentials and certificates within the framework of the USGBC’s LEED green building rating systems. Through rigorous certification and credentialing standards, GBCI drives adoption of green business practices, which fosters global competitiveness and enhances environmental performance and human health benefits.


Mahesh Ramanujam
GBCI is taking another important step toward creating a holistic strategy for green business that began when the U.S. Green Business Council (USGBC) launched the LEED green building rating system 16 years ago,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president, GBCI, and COO, (USGBC). “By reducing and eliminating the volume and toxicity of waste and materials and aligning green rating systems, we are one step further in transforming the market to be more sustainable.

The ZWFC joins a family of prominent certifications administered by the GBCI: the PEER standard for power systems, the WELL building standard, the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), Parksmart, EDGE (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiency) and the GRESB benchmark, which is used by institutional investors to improve the sustainability performance of the global property sector. 

Since its 2012 inception, the USZWBC adopted the Zero Waste International Alliance's zero waste definition:
Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, guiding people to change their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use. Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources and not burn or bury them. Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.
Alignment with the USGBC | GBCI will propel zero waste success from its current material focus to encompass all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health - a monumental leap forward towards a truly sustainable world!

When it launched in 2013, the ZWFC parameters aligned with credit requirements of LEED O+M. Thus, the USGBC | GBCI | USZWBC is a natural joining of forces with monumental industry implications. With USGBC support, zero waste is destined to move beyond best operating practices into standard operating practices.

Stephanie Barger, USZWBC Founder and Executive Director, confirms the sentiment: USZWBC is so excited to join the GBCI family. By spearheading a comprehensive certification and training program, we have already made huge strides in shifting attitudes and behaviors of large and small companies to focus upstream with managing waste. With GBCI’s influence we will be able to further the integrity and credibility of Zero Waste and create a Zero Waste Economy for all!

USGBC intends to honor current USZWBC memberships, sponsorships, and partnerships. As the USZWBC Official Media Partner, Elemental Impact is thrilled for the invigorated zero waste horizons. Time will reveal how the phenomenal potentials ground into powerful realities.

Monday, September 19, 2016

USGBC Steps into Zero Waste WE Consciousness

In September 2012 the ZWA Blog article, Zero Waste is a Team Sport, detailed three consciousness shifts necessary for zero waste success on company and community levels:

First, the "pay and forget" era is over; the consumer must take responsibility for the by-products generated from their activities and ensure materials are reused, repurposed or recycled. The Elemental Impact (Ei) Recycling Integrity page dives deeper into the holographic approach necessary to ensure integrity is maintained throughout the entire material management process.

food waste composting
Second, waste management is replaced by materials / by-products management. In nature there is no "waste"; it is time to emulate nature's perpetual life cycle system. Food waste composting is an example of a system following nature's no-waste baseline.

Third, the "I" focus is replaced with the "WE" focus. The impact of our actions extends to the entire community and beyond; collective action accomplishes more profound results than singular effort. By working together, synergies are unlocked, unnecessary boundaries, including competitive barriers, disintegrate, and creative energies catapult possibilities into grounded realities.

Zero waste initiatives offer tangible opportunities to incorporate the consciousness shifts into standard operating practices. Once a company accepts the first two shifts, action is ready to begin with the third shift.

Thus, the WE Consciousness was introduced as a core Ei value.

... and this summer the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) stepped into Zero Waste WE Consciousness with a monumental announcement. As the home to LEEDLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design - Certification, the USGBC is the recognized global standard for sustainable building design, construction, operations and maintenance.

On July 1, 2016, the USGBC issued a LEED Interpretation allowing documentation for a facility certified by the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) to stand in for several LEED for Building Operations and Maintenance (LEED O+M) prerequisites and credits. The USGBC's aim is to reduce the burden for buildings pursuing both certifications.

Now, if a building earned USZWBC Zero Waste Facility Certification and the scope of the project (i.e., the project boundary) is the same as a project pursuing LEED O+M certification, the USZWBC certification can be used to document the following LEED credits, provided the corresponding USZWBC credit is earned. A scorecard for the USZWBC Zero Waste Facility Certification must be provided to demonstrate specific credit achievement.

According to USZWBC Founder & Executive Director Stephanie Barger:
Stephanie with Bob Gedert
of Austin Resource Recovery
“This LEED Interpretation meets one of our major goals in creating the Zero Waste Facility Certification, which is to leverage existing certification guidelines to enhance not duplicate business practices. Our organization can provide the expertise to drive policies and practices in creating a zero waste economy so all companies can benefit from better markets, services and performance measures.”
Inherent within the USGBC LEED Interpretation is an underlying statement of WE Consciousness, the importance of industry leaders working in unison toward common goals. 

Thank you to the USZWBC for your pioneering spirit in crafting the Zero Waste Facility Certification, a well documented and substantiated program. Thank you to the USGBC for your team spirit, exemplary industry leadership, and working within the WE Consciousness

As the creative energies within the WE Consciousness unleash, the industry is staged to catapult beyond perceived boundaries into a new world of possibilities - EXCITING!!!!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Georgia World Congress Center honored for stellar zero waste practices

At their Annual Recognition Event hosted in late June, the Atlanta Better Building Challenge (ABBC) celebrated program successes and honored Top Performers and Award Recipients. In addition to the energy and water savings accolades, the Waste Diversion Award was added to the prestigious 2016 program.


GWCC ABBC Award
A veteran in zero waste practices, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) was the first annual Waste Diversion Award recipient. An umbrella state-owned entity, the GWCCA consists of the Georgia World Congress Center - fourth largest convention center in the nation & the world's largest LEED Certified convention center, the Georgia Dome and Centennial Olympic Park. In addition, the GWCCA was awarded the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center management contract in early 2014.

During fiscal year 2016 ending June 30, the GWCCA segregated 247.5 tons of single-stream recyclables, 260.7 tons of food waste for compost, and 30 tons of corrugated cardboard for respective contracted collection. IMPRESSIVE!

The GWCCA official zero waste journey began in February 2009 as host for the acclaimed Zero Waste Zones launch. Led by EPA Region 4 Acting Regional Administrator Stan Meiburg, the press conference yielded 60 million media impressions including the CNN City Aims for Zero Waste story that aired prime time in national & international markets.


SFCI Team during post-game
food waste audit
In spring 2012, the Georgia Dome joined the Atlanta Airport and Simon Mall's Concord Mills in Charlotte as prominent Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) Pilots. As the SCFI-Event Venue Pilot, the Georgia Dome was the Lead Pioneer in the Elemental Impact (Ei) Source-Separated Material Recycling Template Pilot.

The GWCCA hosted the 2013 NCAA® Men’s Final Four®, the second most popular sporting event across the globe. One of the Atlanta Local Organizing Committee stated goals was to make the 2013 Final Four the "greenest games ever." Under GWCCA Director of Sustainability Tim Trefzer's leadereship, the 2013 Final Four lived up to their proclamation and set the stage for future Final Four sustainability requirements. 


SFCI Co-Chair Doug Kummenann &
Tim at the education session
The ZWA Blog article, Final Four green footprints continue after the games, details the impressive recycling and other sustainable stats. In addition, the formal 2013 Final Four Sustainability Report is available for download on the Ei Reference Materials & Tools page.

At Tim's request, the Ei SMAT - Sustainable Materials ACTION Team - presented a two-hour Compostable Food & Beverage Packaging Education Session for Levy Restaurants in April 2015. In addition to providing GWCCA foodservice, Levy Restaurants operates foodservice at Phillips Arena and the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, future home of the Atlanta Falcons. The ZWA Blog article, Compostable F&B Packaging: integral to zero waste programs and soil rebuilding, is an overview of the powerful session.

Although it specified prior year activity, the GWCCA's seasoned materials management platform was at the core of the prestigious ABBC Waste Diversion Award. 


GWCCA Team with Award Presenters
photo courtesy of ABBC
The Georgia Dome is one season away from decommission; the GWCCA goal is to recover, reuse and | or recycle at least 90% of the facility. With their solid sustainability culture, the GWCCA is staged to set new standards in venue deconstruction.

Southeast Green's Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge Recognizes the Year’s Top Performers post is an excellent recap of the ABBC Awards Event, including the below quote from Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, Director, City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Sustainability:
Our Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge participants have truly stepped up and gone beyond the whole nine yards in gaining forward progress toward our goals in energy and water conservation. Because of them, Atlanta has become the efficiency leader that our nation looks to as the example to follow. Mayor Kasim Reed and I are proud of all the voluntary work done by our participants, especially our top performers. Through cutting waste, we are not only able to save energy, water and money, but we’re able to make our hometown more resilient, sustainable and with a higher quality of life for all.”

Atlanta is a rock star in many sustainability arenas. It is important organizations like the ABBC recognize the industry heroes as well as broadcast Atlanta's impressive sustainability successes to the nation and beyond.

Congratulations to the GWCCA and other ABBC Top Performers!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Zero Waste CULTURE, a necessary ingredient for long-term ZW program success

CULTUREa collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another.

The above is one of several culture definitions provided on the Texas A&M University website. Within the above definition, corporate and community cultures distinguish themselves in many arenas and behavioral patterns. 

Culture often dictates behavior, either via protocol, rules | regulations, or simply "the way things are done" mentality. In addition, culture drives values, belief systems, and motivation factors. For zero waste program long-term success it is imperative to cultivate a culture where sustainability is a grounding force.

Plastic film is a valuable material
when baled for recycling
Although it may originate within citizen | employee actions and | or demands, corporate and community leadership must align with a sustainability-oriented culture; leadership support is necessary to build infrastructure and economic incentives. Zero waste programs often require corporate | community investment in equipment, labor, and adequate space allocation. Leadership is responsible for investment decisions.

In the November 2015 WasteDIVE article Zero waste: An attainable goal? Q&A with Elemental Impact (Ei) Founder Holly Elmore culture emerged as the single most important factor in zero waste success. In the article, Holly emphasized corporate and consumer citizens must view discarded items as material with value versus trash. Holly states:
"As long as we view it as trash it will end up in the landfill. We must recognize it as valuable material."
Culture often dictates whether discarded items are treated as trash or valuable material.

In the ZWA Blog article, Keys to Zero Waste Success, culture is infiltrated throughout the recommended steps for implementing a zero waste plan. Under the Take baby steps, lots & lots of baby steps section, the first two steps relate to building corporate culture:
  1. Secure top management buy-in - best to also secure Board of Directors support who are responsible to the organization's shareholders.
  2. Identify a "Green Team" from across departments led by a passionate individual in a decision making capacity; for non-management team members, ensure zero waste support is written into job review criteria so they are recognized, versus penalized, for their participation.
The article lists the following culture-oriented cornerstones in many successful programs:
EFP Bulletin Board in
common area 
  • Top management participates in a waste audit and sees firsthand valuable resources the company pays to landfill; often results in new practices eliminating purchases (switch from disposable to reusable coffee cups) and reducing use (install paper product dispensers); an effective tool to keep top management focused on zero waste success.
  • Formal employee engagement program seeking suggestions for improved zero waste practices; often production line employees experience wasteful practices not seen by management.
  • Zero waste evolves into the corporate culture; zero waste culture is incorporated within the new hire interview and training process; signage is placed throughout the facility to emphasize the importance in daily activities.
  • Fun, lighthearted communication for a serious message.
  • Continuing employee education re: at work and personal zero waste practices along with opportunity for employee feedback.
At the inaugural 2012 National Zero Waste Business Conference (NZWBC), Eiko Risch of Ricoh Electronics gave an amazing overview of Ricoh's zero waste and sustainability accomplishments. Once top management buy-in was secured, Eiko developed programs requiring 100% employee participation, including training, fun contests and monetary incentives. Ricoh's zero waste culture is incorporated into the standard hiring process from interviews to the welcome process to job training.

Zero Waste Culture is strong @ EFP
Thanks to Earth Friendly Products (EFP) Vice-President of Sustainability and Education Nadereh Afsharmanesh, zero waste action is successfully interwoven within the EFP corporate culture. Naderah hosts regular employee sustainability training sessions where employees are encouraged to share their ideas for edging closer to true zero waste. Thus, the facility bathrooms have small recycling containers placed next to the sink for the toilet paper cores.

... and EFP's five U.S. plants are Platinum USZWBC Zero Waste Facility Certified!

At the Fifth Annual NZWBC hosted this June in Austin, the importance of corporate & community culture emerged as one of two common themes within the program presentations. Food waste was the other common priority among conference speakers.

During her Food - Love it ... But Don't Waste It! plenary panel presentation, Ted's Montana Grill (TMG) Purchasing & Sustainability Manager Paula Owens included a video dedicated to the TMG sustainability commitment. In the video, TMG Co-Founders Ted Turner and George McKerrow share their common vision for integrating sustainability within standard operating practices and core values. Leading by example, TMG serves as a restaurant industry forerunner for sustainable best operating practices.

The ZWA Blog article, A "Tuned In" Industry Catches a Vibrant Zero Waste Beat, features the stellar 2016 NZWBC plenary program, including Paula's impressive presentation.

In the pre-NZWBC Zero Waste 101 Workshop, Frontline Industrial Consulting President KB Kleckner presented on the importance of Getting Leadership on Board. At the core of KB's message is the imperative role culture plays in zero waste success. KB uses a bridge visual to map the path from strategy to execution:

Bridging Strategy and Frontline Execution ... by structuring and coaching:

  • LEADER DEVELOPMENT: The person at the top.
  • PERSONAL CONNECTION: Engagement on a uniquely personal level.
  • CULTURE: Building beliefs, values, and relationships that guide judgment, decisions, and actions.
KB presenting @ the NZWBC
photo courtesy Scott Lutocka
KB shares his experience crafting strong zero waste programs at Mohawk Industries manufacturing plants during his tenure as Vice President of Manufacturing and Operations of the Home Division. In KB's own words:
"One company does not have the resources to save the world with their Sustainability efforts. But, each company must do their part!  It starts with leadership, culture, and a personal connection with each of the stakeholders, that quickly spill over into business benefits." 
As the opening keynote speaker at the October 2015 SPC Advance hosted in Charlotte, Domtar President & CEO John Williams gave solid examples for crafting a corporate sustainability platform. For success, top management, Board of Director members and shareholders must commit to a long-term program that may include short-run sacrifices. 

It is important to quantify success and demand the supply chain complements the sustainability platform. John recommends using a corporate scorecard to clearly communicate expectations and audit results to ensure authenticity. The ZWA Blog article, Sustainability: an industry defining itself, is an overview of the SPC Advance conference, featuring John's empowering plenary presentation.

Successful zero waste programs make good long-term business sense for the organization, the community and the environment. Corporate | community leadership supports the sustainability culture necessary for program longevity and evolution.

Cultivating zero waste culture within a corporate or community is a necessary ingredient for crafting a sustainable program.