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Monday, August 18, 2014

Sustainability in ACTION at the Georgia Dome

The Georgia Dome (Dome) - home to the Atlanta Falcons - is exploring avenues to refine their impressive recycling practices to new dimensions. As a Founding Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) Participant, the Dome built a strong recycling foundation when the ZWZ launched in February 2009. The ZWA Blog article, Refining Recycling Practices at the GA Dome, gives an overview of the Dome's recycling history and future commitments.

Ei Team @ Novelis recycling
dumpster in tail gate lots
In spring 2012, the Dome accepted the invitation to serve as the SFCI Event Pilot.  Along with the Georgia World Congress Center – fourth largest conference center in the nation – and 20-acre Olympic Centennial Park, the Georgia Dome is one of three facilities under the state-owned Georgia World Congress Center Authority. Tim Trefzer - GWCCA director of sustainability - oversees the impressive sustainability accomplishments, including zero waste and well beyond, for the three facilities.

The SFCI - Dome announces the following 2014 Falcons season goals:
  1. Implement a post-consumer food waste collection program
  2. Source-separate material generated for on-site produced mini-bales
  3. Expand game day tailgate recycling initiatives in the GWCC-owned parking lots; explore recycling possibilities at privately held parking lots. 
Establishing baselines | fact finding for the business model development are the first action steps and timing is impeccable with the August pre-season Falcons home games. 

Nov 10 SFCI-Dome Team
"picking the bowl"
Fact finding for the post-consumer food waste collection program began on November 10, 2013 when the SFCI Team "picked the bowl" post-game for food waste and compostable items. The team collected approximately 130 pounds of compostable material in 13 bags, which were delivered to a permitted commercial composting facility by SFCI co-chair Doug Kunnemann of NatureWorks and Elemental Impact founder Holly Elmore. Great news: the material placed at the end of a windrow composted well!

The Refining Recycling article referenced above includes details on the November 10 game activities.

Continuing the fact finding that began in November, the SMAT - Sustainable Materials ACTION Team - attended the August 8 Falcons pre-season game. With the November game findings grounded in collecting compostable items, the August game mission was focused on identifying contaminants in the food & beverage packaging served at the Dome.

Note the intention is to pilot post-consumer food waste collection on the Club Level for the 2014 season while taking the program to the entire stadium in the 2015 season.

Several seasons ago, Dome concessionaire Levy Restaurants embarked on sustainability practices that laid a solid foundation for the post-consumer food waste collection program. In general condiments are served at pump stations, eliminating the common packet contamination. The Dome suites foodservice uses reusable plates, flatware, napkins, serving platters and beverage cups & glasses and concessions serve food & beverage items in compostable packaging, with a few exceptions.

SMAT post-game @ Dome
Under the direction of SMAT chair Sarah Martell of Innovia Films, team members Rick Lombardo of Natur-Tec, Wendell Simonson of Eco-Products and Grant Braasch of NatureWorks toured the Club Level concessionaire operations scouting for contaminants. 

Once the team reconvenes for a recap meeting, Sarah will draft a report for Tim, Holly and Doug. An outstanding item is to determine if pre-season concession service mirrors season service. An anticipated challenge is packaging used by Levy's sub-contractors at games. At the November game, the team found specialty nuts, cotton candy, chips | peanuts and yogurt containers are the main contaminants when picking the Dome general seating for compostable items.

In addition to post-consumer food waste, the pre-season Falcons games are the platform for the on-site source-separated material model business case. In a nutshell, the model consists of moderate generators using mini-balers to source-separate material into bales, which are delivered to a recycling center. Once weighed and tracked by participant, the mini-bales are aggregated by material into standard mill-size bales. The recycling center stores the bales until ready for sale by the tractor trailer load. Revenue is distributed to participants in proportion to material generated.

GWCC values their cardboard &
has an excellent recycling system
Financial success is grounded in two equally important components: 1> volume and 2> clean material, free of contaminants. For volume, the intent is to recruit Atlanta's zero waste pioneers to once again step into a leadership role. One of the underlying mottos in original ZWZ recruitment was "maximum volume, minimum decision makers." Program participants are required to provide CLEAN material - the tagline is Contamination is a Mistake!

Challenge: no infrastructure exists in Atlanta or most cities to handle mini-bales. Yet mini-balers are essential due to the moderate quantity of material generated. A Dome pilot goal is to substantiate the model improves the bottom line after considering baler cost and increased labor necessary for on-site separation. The model is an prime example of Ei's concept Recycling Integrity - maintaining maximum material value with minimal energy expended.

Creating infrastructure requires aggregating a team of industry pioneers within the entire value chain willing to step beyond "the way it is done" and create new operating practices. The following are the pioneers who stepped forward as industry leaders:

Lead Pioneers:
  • FreshPoint - nation's largest produce distributor
  • GWCC | GA Dome - nation's fourth largest conference center | home to the Atlanta Falcons
  • Georgia Institute of Technology (strong interest with no formal commitment) 
 End Markets:
  • Hilex Poly – world’s largest plastic bag manufacturer
  • Novelis – world’s largest aluminum manufacturer with a recycling plant in Greensboro, GA
  • Pratt Industries – world's largest manufacturer of cardboard boxes from 100% recycled content with a mill in Conyers, GA
Scott Seydel filming @ FP
The model originated as a city-wide plastic film recycling template announced in the ZWA Blog article, If it was easy, it would already be done, with FreshPoint taking the leading role. Details on the plastic film recycling template were updated in the ZWA Blog article, Plastic Film Recycling: A New Frontier. In March Ei announced a video filmed and edited by Ei Chair Scott Seydel in the ZWA Blog article, Plastic Film Recycling Template Video Published.

... and then Tim gave the big YES for the GWCC participating in the plastic film recycling template via the SFCI - Dome. Immediately, the template expanded from plastic film to include common recycling materials generated at event facilities: PET, aluminum and mixed paper.

To build the baseline, Tim requested a waste and recycling audit after the August 8 pre-season game by the Dome waste and recycling contractor. Although easy to determine the material generated via purchasing documents, the quantity of material separated for recycling versus sent directly to the landfill is necessary for the baseline. Understanding the contamination within the current recycling practices is another baseline component.

David, Tim & Louis in
Dome loading dock
While the SMAT team scouted the Club Level, Tim, Holly along with Louis Herrera and David Bangs of Hilex Poly visited the loading dock to check out existing recycling practices and examine the potential mini-baler site. Once the GWCCA recycling specialist is hired, recycling rates will immediately increase when an experienced person takes ownership of material generated at the three GWCCA properties. The new position is timed impeccably with the source-separated materials recycling pilot launch.

In true team spirit, Roderick Jackson with UNICOR | Atlanta Penitentiary joined the Ei folks at the August 8 game. Roderick must understand how material is generated, baled and transported to the Atlanta Penitentiary to create the most effective recycling center procedures. 

Orwak baler scheduled
for Dome delivery
Next steps are delivery of a trial Orwak two-compartment baler for the Dome pilot in time for the August 23 pre-season game. While the prime August 8 game focus was post-consumer food waste, the August 23 game is source-separated material oriented. Ei Partners Novelis - the Falcons recycling partner - along with M-PASS and Pratt plan to attend the game. 

A primary August 23 game goal is to bale enough aluminum and mixed paper for UNICOR to make two to three standard mill size bales. In addition, it is important to calculate the time required to sort mixed material bags and make a mini-bale for labor estimates within the business case.

Once the baseline and fact finding are complete, it is time for the template vision to get a reality check via a solid business plan. When the financials indicate the model promises bottom line rewards, the team will reconvene to chart the action course to refine the Dome's recycling practices, including post-consumer food waste, on-site material source separation and tailgate recycling.

The Ei Team is living the tagline, Sustainability in ACTION, at the Dome! 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Contract provisions require team work necessary for zero waste success

Zero waste icons like Piazza Produce and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company paved the way for zero waste success and set industry standards. The common ingredient for success: TEAM WORK! In the September 2012 ZWA Blog article, Zero Waste is a Team Sport, Piazza Produce is featured with facility manager Scott Lutocka emphasizing the team work required internally between departments and externally with the supply chain.

At the 2014 U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) Conference, Sierra Nevada sustainability coordinator Cherie Chastain ended her prominent Brewing a Platinum Zero Waste Program presentation with a Lessons Learned slide. The final lesson: Remember ... zero waste is a team effort!.

Scott holding his Gold USZWBC
Certification with Sue Beets,
USZWBC president
In November 2013 Sierra Nevada received the first USZWBC Platinum Zero Waste Certification for reusing, re-purposing or recycling an impressive 99.8% of waste generated in their operations. At the 2014 USZWBC Conference, Scott Lutocka accepted Pizza Produce's Gold Zero Waste Certification for their 95% recycling rate. The ZWA Blog article, USZWBC Conference Theme: Zero Waste Evolution, is a conference overview along with copy on Piazza Produce's certification.

Common ground for Piazza Produce and Sierra Nevada is overall management has control of the team work required. Either the teammates are employees or suppliers, often with no binding contracts. 

For many organizations, zero waste practices are challenging due to tenant, janitorial or complex waste & recycling contracts. As an example, an office center generally does not control the material generated by their tenants and is at the mercy of a janitorial contract executed without regard to zero waste practices. Event venues, hotels, airports, shopping malls and other large facilities are in similar scenarios where contracts in-place control their ability to create a comprehensive recycling program.

Hartsfiled-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) - the busiest airport in the world and the Sustainable Food Court Initiative - Airport Pilot - took a bold stand in 2011 when Michael Cheyne, ATL director of sustainability and asset management, included a compostable packaging contract provision in the ATL Concessionaire RFP. Michael understood compostable packaging was a key element to post-consumer food waste collection success; a legally binding contract provision was essential to ensure food vendors were team players.

In the October 2011 ZWA Blog article, Atlanta Airport Makes a Bold Sustainable Statement, the following ATL concessionaire contract provision was announced:
Concessionaire shall use compostable serviceware along with consumer facing packaging and source separate all food service wastes for direct transport to off airport composting facilities.
Typical food court trash 
Though the provision spirit remained consistent, the language for the final concessionaire contracts was modified to flow within the document section.

The SFCI Team worked closely with Michael and his associates on developing the Atlanta Airport Compostable Foodservice Ware Packet, a three-section document: Introduction, Fact Sheet and Frequently Asked Questions. In addition, the team provided a Materials Usage document designed to track concessionaire compliance with the contract provision.

Due to the vast number of ATL food vendors, the new concessionaire contract was implemented in stages over eighteen months. With the implementation complete, the ATL sustainability and concessions departments are working together on a game plan to notify food vendors the provision must be met by a specified time. Discussions are underway for a possible phase-in by compostable packaging type - cups, flatware, plates, to-go boxes, sandwich wrap etc.

On August 8 the Elemental Impact (Ei) Sustainable Materials ACTION Team (SMAT) toured concessionaire operations with Liza Milagro - ATL senior sustainability planner - who is overseeing the compostable packaging compliance roll out. The meeting was an introduction to the industry expert support system available to Liza for document preparation and other inquiries.

SMAT group with Liza
With most major restaurant concepts, local to global, represented at the ATL, the contract provision implementation sets the stage for an overhaul of food court packaging. From Starbucks to PF Chang's to TGI Fridays to Chick-fil -A, restaurant chains are legally bound to serve to-go food and beverage in compostable packaging. 

Until zero waste-oriented contract provisions are an industry standard, it takes bold leaders like the ATL to shift industry practices. In addition to bold, the leader must have a strong market hold where such provisions are a given and not part of contract negotiations. 

With the Georgia Dome - current home of the Atlanta Falcons - serving as the SFCI - Event Venue Pilot, the SMAT works closely with Scott Jenkins, New Falcons Stadium general manager. Scott has a strong zero waste pedigree from his tenure at Safeco Field where his team brought the stadium to 90%+ recycling. As the new stadium RFPs are issued zero waste-oriented provisions are a given where appropriate. According to Scott:
"Contract language is a key element that sets the appropriate expectations of all parties involved in any zero waste initiative. Zero waste is a team effort that requires every party to be on the same page."
Scott Jenkins & Ei founder
Holly Elmore
Thanks to excellent team work, the University of North Carolina - Charlotte's (UNCC) new Jerry Richardson Stadium opened with first season zero waste success. The Zero Waste initiative recognized for outstanding collaboration and partnership is an excellent overview of how UNC staff, students and foodservice provider Chartwells worked in unison to achieve zero waste success. 

According to Devin Hatley, UNCC environmental educator & volunteer coordinator, the stadium janitorial contract included a provision requiring staff to follow UNCC zero waste practices. Note Chartwells was a driver in the zero waste program without any specified provisions.

Ei founder Holly Elmore and Ei general counsel Greg Chafee of Thompson Hine are crafting an industry paper dedicated to contract provisions that support zero waste practices. The paper will provide simple contract language examples for service provider, tenant or other contracts critical to program success or demise.

Across the board, zero waste icons agree team work is essential to success. Without public policy or regulations, legally binding contract provisions are an answer to gathering critical players on the same page, same paragraph, same sentence!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Ei Charlotte Visit: Busy, Productive & Fun!

The Elemental Impact Team visited Charlotte, NC July 30 through August 01 to reunite with long-term pals, meet new pioneers and brainstorm on the powerful Ei | Mecklenburg County Government (MCG) synergies. It was a busy three days filled with meetings, tours and strategy sessions.

Kim & Sarah kept tradition with  a
Starbucks stop before leaving Atlanta
From Atlanta, Sarah Martell with Innovia Films, Kim Charick with the EPA Region IV and Ei founder Holly Elmore traveled to Charlotte. The four-hour travel time was spent in active discussions on background and future plans for Charlotte work and beyond. On the second and third days Ei Partners Natur-Tec and Keter Environmental Services (KES) joined the Atlanta folks.

Ei Charlotte work began when Concord Mills (CM) accepted the Sustainable Food Court Initiative Shopping Mall Pilot role in 2011. Ei Partner HMSHost's foodservice operations at the CM food court and the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport provides a strong foundation for Charlotte business and government relationships.  

In March, 2013 HMSHost and Simon Property Group | CM hosted the Charlotte Ei Partner Tours to educate on the SFCI - CM successes via presentations and tours. The IMPACT Blog article, Charlotte Ei Partner Tours, is an overview of the tours while the ZWA Blog post, Bring the Possible Out of Impossible, dives into zero waste successes. PPT presentations are available for download on the Ei Partner Tours page.

Kim checking out the clean
plastic film bale @ Concord Mills
The August 2012 ZWA Blog article, ACTION: Theme for the SFCI Shopping Mall Pilot, announced the food waste collection for compost, excess food donation and plastic film recycling programs.

The first Ei Team meeting was at CM with discussions centered on a game plan to refine existing practices into new dimensions of impact.

As the pioneer in mall plastic film recycling, CM general manager Ray Soporowski orchestrated an excellent system that flows with his tenant base and back-of-the house (BOH) logistics. Due to available space, there is one Orwak baler servicing approximately 70% of the tenants. With pending renovations, there is potential space at the opposite end of the large mall to service the remaining tenants. A refinement exploration is using the small baler for other materials currently destined for landfill. An example is the abundant receipts generated at tenant point-of-sale stations.

In alignment with the SFCI's stated post-consumer food waste focus, the goal is to move forward with front-of-the-house food waste collection in the popular food court. The ZWA Blog article, SFCI targets post-consumer food waste, announces the post-consumer food waste focus at each of the SFCI Pilots. 

Ray with Sarah & Kim next to
the Orwak baler
CM program refinements are slated for fall planning with January | February 2015 implementation, after the busy holiday season.

In addition, the SFCI Team intends to create a mall manual with simple instructions for BOH food waste collection for compost and excess food donation program development. With an abundance of malls in Mecklenburg County there is ample opportunity to refine the manual instructions while implementing BOH food waste collection practices.

A first-time visit to Wallace Farm Soil Products was a delight! Family-owned since the mid 1800's, Wallace Farm is a compost, soil and mulch  farm where most of the products are bagged on-site for retail sale. Although food waste generated by foodservice operations is not currently accepted, Eric Wallace is enthusiastic to explore pilots with food waste and compostable packaging geared towards the impact on final product specifications. Laurette Hall - MCG environmental manager waste reduction - joined the Ei Team for the Wallace Farm tour.

A Wallace Farm mare enjoying
a tasty lunch
Beyond discussing food waste composting pilots, the Ei Team was thrilled to discover the miniature horse herd, complete with an hours old foal.

After the Wallace Farm tour, the group headed for a late lunch at Whiskey Warehouse located in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood. Lunch was an excellent time to discuss the full Thursday and Friday itinerary.

A casual Ei dinner at Atlanta-based Taco Mac was a great setting to relax from a busy day. Conversation flowed between personal and business topics while the local and out-of-town folks enjoyed getting to know each other. Ei Partner Rick Lombardo of Natur-Tec joined team at dinner and was briefed on the next day meetings. Eric & Betsy Dryer - local distributor for Ei Partner Grease Lock Filters - were a welcome addition to the dinner group along with Brian Shetron of HMSHost-CM and Justin Senkbeil of CompostNOW.

Thank you Sarah Martell of Innovia Films for hosting the dinner.

The second day began at Joseph A. Grier Academy, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools elementary school, with a focus on their impressive recycling practices. It was empowering to witness the staff's engagement, excellent educational signage and the painted recycling dumpster.

Grier Academy Pant-A-Can
recycling dumpster
Grier Academy participated in the 2014 Paint-A-Can Contest and their recycling eight-yard dumpster was fantastic! The 2014 Paint-A-Can Video is an excellent contest overview along with featuring the winners. Here is the formal contest description:
Elementary, middle and high schools throughout the County are participating in an innovative program that rewards schools for thinking creatively about the subject of recycling.Registered teams are provided with everything they need to work with their students to design and then paint a recycling-themed landscape on their exterior recycling containers. Five lucky schools will rise to the top and take home their shares of the $12,500 bounty.  
Coca Cola Bottling, Republic Services, ReCommunity, Sherwin Williams and Keep Mecklenburg Beautiful, want to thank all the participants for their excellent, innovative entries in the 2014 Paint A Can contest.
Next on the agenda was a meeting with the Charlotte professional sporting event facility owners | managers.The meeting purpose was to introduce the group to Ei pilots in the development stage and garnering interest to participate in template creation. 

Devin Hatley, UNC Charlotte environmental educator & volunteer coordinator, attended the meeting and shared the new Jerry Richardson Stadium's first season zero waste success. The Zero Waste initiative recognized for outstanding collaboration and partnership is an excellent overview of how UNC staff, students and foodservice provider Chartwells worked in unison to achieve zero waste success. 

Thank you to The Charlotte Knights for hosting the great meeting. Mark McKinnon, Charlotte Knights director of stadium operations, was enthusiastic to explore working together once the 2014 season ends in September. The timing is perfect for an October Ei Charlotte visit!

Mall tours were on the afternoon agenda as Ei Partners KES COO Matt Hupp and diversion manager Micah Beck met the team at Carolina Place, a General Growth Properties mall. Jake Wilson - MCG environmental supervisor, joined the Ei Team for lunch at Harper's along with touring the recently implemented BOH food waste collection for compost program. Thank you Rick Lombardo of Natur-Tec for hosting the delicious and productive lunch.

A happy server scraping dishes
into the compost bin @ Harper's
As an EPA Scaling Up Compost in Charlotte Grant participant, Carolina Place receives support from the Grant Team along with food waste compost program upfront costs covered under the Grant. In April the Grant Team visited Charlotte for three days to educate foodservice operators on the Grant and recruit participation. The ZWA Blog article, Charlotte Focuses on Food Waste with EPA Grant Support, chronicles the April Grant Team visit. Ei is a sub-grantee while Ei Strategic Ally The Sustainable Packaging Coalition is the grantee. 

Carolina Place's two seated dining restaurants, Harper's and McAliister's Deli, are separating prep food waste along with plate scrapings for collection for compost. It was thrilling to witness the Harper's staff enthusiasm to separate food waste for compost.

Jake Wilson (MCG), Jim Lanier (Earth
Farms) & Matt Hupp (KES)
Next stop was SouthPark Mall to tour the plastic film recycling practices in-place. Due to corporate reorganization within the Simon sustainability department, SouthPark Mall will delay joining the EPA Grant program until the fall.

A busy day ended with an Ei | KES strategy session to develop an action plan through year end. An excellent dinner followed at Rooster's where conversation remained food waste-oriented, when not discussing our love of well-prepared food!

The final day began with a powerful MCG | Ei brainstorming session. In addition to Laurette and her team, Jeff Smithberger - MCG director, solid waste - joined the session as an invaluable contributor to the vibrant discussions. Outcome: 1> recap call with Holly and Laurette and 2> potential October Ei visit for introductory meetings with the City of Charlotte and local sustainability | hospitality organizations.

The Charlotte visit ended with a lovely lunch at the Charlotte Airport compliments of HMSHost. Eric Dyer met earlier with Brian Shetron of HMSHost to quantify the GLF airport-wide installation within the Ei Airborne Kitchen Grease, a proactive approach, Initiative. Thank you Brian for hosting a fabulous lunch.

recycling bins at Grier Academy
For new Ei Partner Rick Lombardo of Natur-Tec, the Charlotte visit was an inaugural Ei adventure! It was lovely welcoming Rick into the Ei family and learning another "foodie" is part of the team. Next week Rick travels to Atlanta for his second adventure at the August 8 pre-season Atlanta Falcons game.

For a pictorial recap of busy, productive and fun Charlotte trip, visit the Ei FB album, July | August 2014 Ei Charlotte Visit.

The four-hour return drive was perfect to recap the visit and strategize on action plans. Before hitting the Georgia state line, the brand new Sustainable Materials ACTION Team was grounded with its name, scope, activities and members. Sarah serves as the SMC Chair and Kim joined the committee from her back seat position. 

Next Friday morning SMC members tour Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport - the busiest airport in the world AND the SFCI - Airport Pilot! - concessionaire operations.

YES, it was a productive visit on many levels, impacting Charlotte and beyond.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

SFCI targets post-consumer food waste

When the Zero Waste Zones launched in 2009 Atlanta was thrust into the national spotlight as the leader in the commercial collection of food waste for compost. As highlighted in the CNN story City aims for zero waste, the ZWZ focused on back-of-the-house (BOH) | pre-consumer food waste collection for compost.

Chef Ahmad Nourzad
w/ Affairs to Remember
"It was Easy - Thank You" was a common phrase from ZWZ Participants. Yet arriving to this point was NOT easy! It took a team of industry leaders who were willing to figure out by trial and error the new "easy" food waste collection practices. Kudos to Patrick Cuccaro of Affairs to Remember, Randy Childers of The Hyatt Regency, Steve Simon of fifth group restaurants, Executive Chef Frank Abbinanti of Levy Restaurants | Georgia World Congress Center, to name a few, for leading the industry in pre-consumer food waste collection!

With Elemental Impact's (Ei) ZWZ role complete, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) purchased the ZWZ in late 2012 to augment its ConServe Program. The ZWZ sale substantiated Ei as a powerful program creator. A common phrase in Ei founder Holly Elmore's many speaking engagements summarizes Ei's industry role:

Ei is a creator, an incubator.
Ei determines what could be done that is not being done and gets it done.
Ei brings the possible out of impossible.
Ei identifies pioneers and creates heroes.

The August, 2013 IMPACT Blog article, Ei Emerges Strong from a Metamorphosis, announces the Ei triple-platform focus: Product Stewardship, Recycling Refinement and Water Use | Toxicity. Within Recycling Refinement - moving beyond landfill diversion - post-consumer food waste collection is a primary focus, along with on-site source-separated material for recycling collection.

As ZWZ Participants, each of the Sustainable Food Court Initiative Pilots have strong pre-consumer food waste collection commitments. Below is a recap of the respective SFCI Pilot's goals for post-consumer food waste collection for compost or other state-permitted destinations other than landfill:

The 2014 | 2015 primary SFCI focus is post-consumer food waste collection.

As the SFCI - Shopping Center Pilot, Concord Mills in Charlotte, NC takes an industry leading role in mall food court BOH food waste collection, wasted food donation and plastic film recycling. The March 2013 ZWA Blog article, Bring the Possible out of Impossible, highlights the strong working relationship with Ei Partner HMSHost (food court concessionaire) and mall owner Simon Property Group.

Ray with his Orwak baler,
the workhorse of the plastic film
recycling program
In April, Concord Mills general manager Ray Soporowski hosted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region IV Scaling Up Compost in Charlotte Grant Team for a tour of the food waste and plastic film recycling programs. During the tour, Ray agreed to pilot a post-consumer food waste collection program in the food court. The game plan is to meet in the summer to devise a game plan for implementation after the busy year-end holiday season. The ZWA Blog article, Charlotte Focuses on Food Waste with EPA Grant Support, recaps the April Charlotte visit.

The Ei Team visits Charlotte July 30 - August 01 for three days of powerful tours, meetings and strategy sessions. A meeting with Ray on the Concord Mills post-consumer food waste collection pilot is scheduled as a top priority.

In 2011 Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the busiest airport in the world, made a bold sustainable statement by including a provision in the Airport Concessionaire Request for Proposal requiring food vendors to use compostable packaging. 

Ei Chair Scott Seydel w/ Scott
DeFife of the NRA w/the
Going Green Airports Award
The provision announcement coincided with the Atlanta Airport stepping forward as the first SFCI Pilot. For an overview of the groundbreaking provision, visit the ZWA Blog article, Atlanta Airport Makes a Bold Sustainable Statement. The SFCI - Atlanta Airport won a 2011 Going Green Airports Award for the contract provision.

The Ei Atlanta Airport Compostable Packaging Information Packet page is an overview of the comprehensive document prepared by the SFCI Team in 2012 to educate airport concessionaires on the contract provision.

With the new contract completing its eighteen month implementation process, the Airport is informing concessionaires the compostable packaging provision is effective by year end. Liza Milagro - Atlanta Airport senior sustainability planner - is orchestrating a series of lunch and learn sessions to educate and prepare the Concessions Department for provision compliance.

Liza & Doug @ Atlanta Airport 
SFCI co-chair Doug Kunnemann of NatureWorks works closely with Liza on developing a Compostable Packaging Products Manual to aid concessionaires in meeting the contract provision. The document focus is on the compostable packaging definition and how to communicate the packaging requirements within the concessionaire supply chain.

On Friday, August 8 Liza meets with the newly formed Ei Sustainable Materials ACTION Team chaired by Sarah Martell of innovia Films to tour the airport concession operations. Committee members Grant Braasch of NatureWorks, Rick Lombardo of Natur-Tec and Wendell Simonson of Eco-Products will share their expertise with Liza and offer their on-going support. 

The Ei Sustainable Materials ACTION Team is a team of industry experts from non-profits and private enterprise who provide support to foodservice operators eager to refine their food waste collection practices. One of the main committee tasks is to support the SFCI Pilots as they embark on post-consumer food waste collection programs.

The Georgia World Congress Center Authority, including the Georgia World Congress Center, Georgia Dome and Centennial Olympic Park, was the first ZWZ Participant and hosted the acclaimed 2009 press conference launching the program. A veteran to zero waste practices, the GWCC is eager to refine their recycling programs.  

Tim "picking the bowl" @
2013 Falcons Game
In early 2012 GWCCA director of sustainability Tim Trefzer gave the big YES to the Georgia Dome serving as the SFCI - Event Venue Pilot!  For the 2014 Atlanta Falcons season, the SFCI - Georgia Dome announces the following goals:
  1. Implement a post-consumer food waste collection program
  2. Source-separate material generated for on-site produced mini-bales
  3. Expand game day tailgate recycling initiatives in the GWCC-owned parking lots; explore recycling possibilities at privately held parking lots. 
Establishing baselines | fact finding for the business model development is the first action step and timing is impeccable with the upcoming August 08 & 23 pre-season Falcons home games. Future articles will document the planning and action necessary to accomplish the 2014 Atlanta Falcons Season Goals.

Food donation programs are integral to successful post-consumer food waste systems. In the original ZWZ Criteria, participants were required to donate excess food in accordance with the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. Often there is prepared food deemed unservable due to quality standards yet meets the donation standards.

Perry with food ready for donation
Perry Kranias with HMSHost - Tampa International Airport is a leading pioneer in maximizing donated food in commercial foodservice operations. The ZWA Blog's most popular article (almost to 8,000 pageviews!), Reduce First, Donate Second, Compost Third, is an introduction to the Tampa Airport donation program. 

HMSHost contracts with the Food Donation Connection (FDC) on a national basis to orchestrate their donation programs. FDC is a NRA partner organization who specializes in the tax benefits generated by food donation programs. In partnership with YUM! Brands, FDC produced an excellent video, HMSHost and Food Donation Connection Food Rescue, on their system featuring the Tampa Airport donation program.

The post-consumer food waste goals are stated, action plans are established or in the formation stage, and the Ei Team is mobilized to provide guidance and support to industry pioneers. 

Ei's tagline Sustainability in ACTION is indeed in action for post-consumer food waste programs. Let the possible flow from the impossible while pioneers segue into heroes!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Atlanta Shines as Zero Waste Conference Host City

The common thread in Atlanta's
zero waste story
Atlanta, a city with strong zero waste roots, was a perfect host for the third annual U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) Conference in early May. With the 2009 Zero Waste Zones launch, Atlanta took a leadership role in the commercial collection of food waste for compost.

National media attention followed with the CNN story City Aims for Zero Waste that aired prime time along with homepage listing during Earth Week 2009. Later in the year, the New York Times front-page article, Nudging Recycling from Less Waste to None, featured ZWZ Champion Steve Simon, Fifth Group Restaurants partner. The ZWA Blog article, Atlanta: Host City for 2014 USZWBC Conference, gives a short synopsis of Atlanta's zero waste history along with an USZWBC overview.

As a conference partner and media sponsor, Elemental Impact played a leading role in bringing the national conference to Atlanta along with orchestrating the local flavor portion of the excellent program. The ZWA Blog article, Creating Value Through Zero Waste, recaps the many powerful Atlanta meetings preparing for the event. Promoted pre-conference in the ZWA Blog article, National in Focus, Local in Flavor, the 2014 USZWBC Conference Program was well balanced between national | local presentations, with sessions geared toward zero waste veterans and those embarking on the journey.

CleanRiver's Sponsor booth
Ei Partners, Advisers and Strategic Allies were prominent at the conference serving as panel moderators | presenters, conference sponsors and promotional partners. In addition to their speaker roles, Ei Partners Novelis, NatureWorks, Orwak and CleanRiver Recycling Systems stepped forward as conference sponsors. Ei Strategic Ally Sustainable Atlanta served as the conference Local Host while Allies Sustainable Packaging Coalition, Institute for Local Self-Reliance and Green Chamber of the South were Promotional Partners.

Following USZWBC executive director Stephanie Barger's conference opening remarks, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 4 administrator, Heather McTeer Toney welcomed the participants from across North America to Atlanta and gave an overview of the region's zero waste commitment.

Stephanie & Laura
Photo courtesy of Melissa Selem 
As the opening plenary keynote speaker, Ei Adviser and ZWZ Founding Chair, Laura Turner Seydel served as Atlanta's Ambassador with her impressive talk on Atlanta's resilient spirit and the many grass roots organizations who make a tremendous impact, individually and collectively. In her closing, Laura spoke on Captain Planet's profound influence on the generation stepping into national leadership roles and how the Captain Planet Foundation keeps the Planeteer spirit alive through programs like the Learning Gardens.

After Laura's keynote, Ei founder Holly Elmore moderated the opening plenary panel on Atlanta's Zero Waste Story including Suzanne Burnes, Sustainable Atlanta executive director, Denise Quarles, City of Atlanta director office of sustainability, Michael Cheyne, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (Atlanta Airport) asset management & sustainability director, and Scott Jenkins, the New Atlanta Falcons Stadium general manager.

Within the introductions, Holly wove the common ZWZ thread at the foundation of current zero waste success. During the ZWZ launch and early years, Suzanne served as the Georgia Department of Natural Resources Sustainability Division assistant director and gave unwavering support through exciting, though often challenging times. At Sustainable Atlanta, Suzanne steers the metro region's EcoDistricts program and LookUp Atlanta, gathering space to share, celebrate and inspire the good work happening every day to create a better, healthier community.

Holly moderating the panel
The City of Atlanta joined the ZWZ and was a strong advocate with many introductions, including the Atlanta Airport. In her role, Denise expands upon the ZWZ foodservice industry focus to the community at-large including residential curbside recycling services. Under Denise's tutelage, the City launched Power to Change: One City. One Plan. 10 Impact Areas, a comprehensive city-wide sustainability initiative.

In addition to joining the ZWZ program, the Atlanta Airport serves as the Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) Airport Pilot. The 2011 ZWA Blog article, Atlanta Airport Makes a Bold Sustainable Statement, announced the groundbreaking contract provision requiring airport food vendors to use compostable serviceware and consumer-facing packaging under the then new concessionaire contract.

Michael @ the podium
Michael gave a profound presentation on the sustainability and zero waste initiatives at the busiest airport in the world. A true pioneer, Michael is taking an industry leadership role in a proactive approach to Airborne Kitchen Grease (AKG), a costly by-product of cooking. Approvals are in-process for a campus-wide installation of Grease Lock Filters in airport concessionaires. The proactive AKG approach is staged to reduce airport water usage by an estimated 1.1 million gallons per year while concessionaires save approximately $7,300 annually per location.  

The ZWA Blog article, Atlanta Airport Presents a Proactive Approach to Airborne Kitchen Greaseannounces the American Association of Airport Executives' February | March publication Airport Magazine article, AIRBORNE KITCHEN GREASE: A New Frontier in Sustainability, A simple solution saves tremendous water use, labor and dollars, co-written by Michael and Holly.

Holly & Scott
during break after the panel
Photo courtesy of Melissa Selem
Next at the podium was Scott Jenkins, who recently relocated to Atlanta from Seattle. A zero waste veteran, Scott brought Safeco Field to zero waste during his tenure as the Seattle Mariners vice-president of operations. 

It was exciting to hear the deep sustainability commitment by Arthur Blank, Falcons owner and Home Depot co-founder, for the stadium construction and operations.The Falcons made a strong statement by hiring the new stadium general manager and contracting with foodservice operator Levy Restaurants three seasons prior to the stadium opening.

... and the ZWZ common thread? The Georgia Dome is one of three facilities within the Georgia World Congress Center campus, a ZWZ Founding Participant and host to the 2009 ZWZ launch press conference. In addition, the Georgia Dome serves as the SFCI Event Venue Pilot with intentions for the new stadium to continue as the pilot when it opens.

During the first conference day lunch, EPA Chief, RCRA Programs & Materials Jon Johnston gave a Food Recovery Challenge overview along with accolades to the impressive program recruitment in less than three months. The ZWA Blog article, EPA Food Recovery Challenge: Region IV launches FRC in hospitality sector, gives program details and an introduction to the food waste dilemma; the Ei Joins EPA FRC article details Ei's role in promoting the program.

After Jon's presentation, Stephanie took the podium to present USZWBC Zero Heroes 2014 Awards and a Zero Waste Certification plaque. USZWBC Board vice-president Gary Liss was presented with the Board Member of the Year award for his amazing industry dedication and unwavering organization commitment.

Awards are a team effort
Ei Team picture courtesy of Scott Lutocka
Ei close friend Scott Lutocka of Piazza Produce received the Zero Waste Cheerleader 2014 Award for his heroic efforts promoting zero waste across industry boundaries. The Zero Waste is a Team Sport ZWA Blog article gives an overview of Piazza Produce's zero waste practices in-place at their distribution center. While at the podium accepting his personal award, Scott also accepted the Piazza Produce Gold Zero Waste Certification plaque. 

Holly was presented with the Zero Waste Promoter of the Year - what an honor! With tears in her eyes Holly gave a heartfelt thank you as she accepted the award. The conference was indeed a powerful event for Ei.

Scott & Holly in their
Zero Waste Warrior capes!
Photo courtesy of Melissa Selem
In addition to the formal conference awards, Scott and Holly received Zero Waste Warrior Super Hero capes from dear friend Heinz Weverink of Merciel Materials. At Heinz's request, Samantha Heburn made the capes from 100% reclaimed material. The capes are a treasure and most appreciated.

During the second conference day the plenary keynotes and panels were interspersed with morning and afternoon break out sessions, many moderated by Ei staff or affiliates. In the morning, Holly moderated the Scaling Up Composting in Charlotte panel on the EPA Region 4 Sustainable Packaging Coalition Grant by the same name. 

Kim Charick with the EPA gave an overview of the grant importance and the EPA's commitment to support food waste collection for compost. Next Laurette Hall with Mecklenburg County gave an overview of the Charlotte metro area's strong waste reduction practices, including food waste collection pilots in several county schools. Wrapping up the panel, Anne Bedarf with the SPC gave a synopsis of the grant goal, tasks and objectives along with a progress-to-date update.

The EPA Grant Panel
photo courtesy of Melissa Selem
For grant details, visit the ZWA Blog article, Scaling up composting in Charlotte, NC. The Charlotte Focuses on Food Waste with EPA Support article is a recap of the Grant Team April visit to Charlotte.

In the afternoon Holly moderated the Recycling Refinement panel on the metro-wide recycling template pilot that gives the corporate community an alternative to single-stream recycling while improving bottom lines. Aligning with Ei's concept Recycling Integrity - maintaining maximum material value with minimum energy expended - the template is grounded in material source-separation at the generation point.

The ZWA Blog article, If it was easy, it would already be done, introduces the template along with inherent challenges. Beginning with plastic film recycling, the template expanded to the common recycled items - PET (#1 plastics common in bottled beverages), aluminum and paper | fiber- when the GWCC joined as a Template Pioneer. The panel represented the template value chain.

Leading the panel, Mark Lanning with Tomra | Orwak gave an overview of current single-stream recycling systems and how on-site material source-separation using small balers aligned with Recycling Integrity. 

Next Preston Fletcher with FreshPoint - the nation's largest produce distributor - presented on their role as the Lead Template Pioneer including examples of how internal practices were modified to eliminate contamination.The ZWA Blog article, Plastic Film Recycling Video Published, announces Ei's video filmed and edited by Ei Chair Scott Seydel on initial action steps in template development.

Lorraine @ podium
photo courtesy of Scott Lutocka
Preston's comments on the lack of existing infrastructure were the perfect segue to M-PASS Environmental's role in template development. Lorraine White discussed route density creation for small bale collection and working with the template recycling center on aggregating material into standard size bales. From the audience, Marvin Blow - associate warden at the Atlanta Penitentiary - confirmed the Atlanta Penitentiary will serve as the template recycling center where inmates re-bale the material to hold until sold by the tractor trailer load.

Closing the panel, Kurt Schmitz with Pratt Industries gave an overview of Pratt's 100% recycled content cardboard box manufacturing. In addition, Kurt stressed how keeping the template material local generated jobs and spurred the community economy. With their North American headquarters in nearby Conyers, GA, Pratt is the end market for fiber collected in the template. 

Keeping with the local theme, Ei program administrator Melissa Selem moderated the Zero Waste: Georgia Grown panel where the ZWZ were once again the common thread among the presenters. Abbey Patterson - Atlanta Recycles (AR) director - worked closely with Holly on the founding ZWZ Participant recruiting; the ZWZ - Downtown Atlanta was in partnership with AR. At the podium, Abbey educated on how AR is central to metro Atlanta's many recycling programs and success stories.

Gloria Hardegree - Georgia Recycling Coalition executive director - was the AR Chair during the ZWZ launch and a strong supporter. In her presentation, Gloria shared the GRC's Made in Georgia - from Recycled Materials initiative. For an overview, the seven plus minute video GRC - Made in Georgia produced by Greenshortz gives an excellent snippet of the strong end markets for recycled material in Georgia.

Zero Waste: GA Grown panel
photo courtesy of Mike Simone
Following Gloria, Fifth Group Restaurants partner Steve Simon presented on Pioneering Zero Waste for a Restaurateur. As the first dumpster-free restaurant in Atlanta, Steve was featured in the October 2009 front-page New York Times article referenced in the second paragraph. Although easy now with long-term zero waste practices in place, Steve shared the challenges faced by a restaurant group with numerous concepts and varying waste | recycling options offered by landlords.

With the 2012 National Restaurant Association ZWZ purchase, Jeff Clark - NRA ConServe program director - was perfect to wrap-up the session with his NEW ZWZ, Atlanta's Business-Savvy Conservation Program, presentation. The NRA article, Sustainability, zero waste top agenda at business council conference, is a great session recap supported by industry leader quotes.

Thanks to Ei's introductions, Suganthi Simon (EPA), Tim Trefzer (GWCC) and Cindy Jackson (Georgia Institute of Technology) presented on the Zero Waste in Sports panel. Suganthi gave a high level perspective in her Fostering a Culture of Sustainability in Collegiate Sports session while Tim and Cindy were grounded in success stories at their respective facilities.

Laura & Tim happy to reconnect
In 2013 the Georgia Dome hosted the Final Four with great success on zero waste, community involvement and overall sustainability fronts. The ZWA Blog article, Final Four green footprints continue after the games, includes a summary of the Final Four's substantial impact before, during and after the games. For in-depth details, the Final Four Sustainability Report is available for download on the Elemental Impact Resources page under the Event Recycling section.

A zero waste veteran, Cindy oversees an award-winning recycling program at Ga Tech with on-site source-separation used campus-wide. After a Ga Tech campus overview, Cindy presented on the game day grass roots recycling practices at Bobby Dodd Stadium, including tailgate programs and food waste collection for compost in the stadium suites. 

Always willing to share her success recipe, Cindy hosted Tim on the GA Tech campus in February 2012, marking the beginning of a strong friendship. For a pictorial recap of the campus tour, visit the Ei FB album, 02-27-12 GA Tech Hosts GWCCA. Check out the pictures of the CLEAN streams collected from student source-separated recycling centers.

Ei Partner Bruce Buchan of CleanRiver presented on Zero Waste: The 3 C Approach in the Property & Facility Management morning panel. According to Bruce, the Three R's (reduce, reuse, recycle) are augmented with the Three C's: Culture, Communication & Collection in effective recycling programs. For an in-depth Three C synopsis, visit the ZWA Blog article, Evolution of the Three R's along with substantiation of CleanRiver's long-term commitment to customers like Ga Tech.

Michael & Anne chat during a break
photo courtesy of Melissa Selem
In the afternoon, Ei Strategic Ally Anne Bedarf of the SPC moderated the Sustainable Packaging panel where Ei Partner Steve Davies of Natureworks presented on Perspective in Packaging and Zero Waste. As the manufacturer of Ingeo - a biopolymer (polylactic acid) - used to create eco-friendly plastics and fibers, Natureworks is at the forefront of incorporating compostable plastics into foodservice and other industries packaging. 

For commercial food waste collection programs, compostable packaging is essential to prevent plastics and other contaminants from entering the material stream. Steve's colleague, Doug Kunnemann co-chairs the SFCI where post-consumer food waste collection initiatives are the primary 2014 focus.

A keynote speaker for day two of the conference, Brenda Platt of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, Ei Strategic Ally, was inspiring at the podium during her Pay Dirt: Composting in America to Reduce Waste, Create Jobs, and Enhance the Soil. Brenda educated the attentive audience about the vital role food waste collected for composting plays in soil, water and air quality.

Later in the morning, Ei Partner John Gardner of Novelis presented on Driving to a Closed Loop Business Model & Zero Waste. Epitomizing the critical role played by the supply chain in zero waste initiatives, Novelis takes a proactive approach to their environmental footprint as well as their customers' impact. As the world's largest manufacturer of rolled aluminum, shifts in Novelis practices have a profound global impact in many industries and markets.

In the Zero Waste Branding & Social Marketing panel, Ei Supporter and zero waste pioneer, Patrick Cucarro - Affairs to Remember (ATR) managing director - gave an excellent presentation on how impressive internal practices segue into powerful external messaging. Keeping with an ATR core value "We're Serious About Fun," Patrick used a clever spaghetti analogy intertwined within his presentation.

The ZWA Blog article, USZWBC Conference Theme: Zero Waste Evolution, is an overall conference recap featuring prime plenary keynote and panel presentations, including more detail on John, Brenda, and Patrick's important presentations. Conference PPT presentations are available to view on the USZWBC 2014 Conference program page by clicking on the specific session title. 

The amazing duo:
Emily & Stephanie!
photo courtesy of Melissa Selem
For a conference pictorial recap, visit the Ei FB album, 2014 USZWBC Conference in Atlanta. The Ei site USZWBC Conference page recaps each of the above keynote & panel presentations along with short descriptions and PPT presentations available for download.

Conference success is always grounded in strong collaborative efforts. The USZWBC core team - Stephanie & Emily DeCremer - were amazing to work with on the local flavor within an astounding national conference. Kudos to the USZWBC on another phenomenal conference!  ... onward to Los Angeles for the 2015 USZWBC Conference!