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Thursday, July 23, 2015

Charlotte opportunities segue into ACTION

EPA Grant Team @ Knights Ballpark
during February visit
The week of July 13 the Elemental Impact (Ei) | EPA Grant Team converged on Charlotte for three powerful days filled with meetings, tours and dinners. With introductions substantiated in prior visits, the meetings were follow-up in nature with actions points integral within the respective agendas.

In February the team visited Charlotte for introductory meetings at the Charlotte Convention Center (CCC), Knights' BB&T Ballpark, Hornets Time Warner Cable Arena and Carolina Panthers Bank of America Stadium. The ZWA Blog article, Charlotte: A Land of Opportunities, chronicles the important visit.

Ei's strong Charlotte connections, along with a substantial history of successful work, are chronicled on the Ei Charlotte Visits website page.

Concord Mills, a Simon mall in metro Charlotte, serves as the Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) Shopping Mall Pilot and was the catalyst for Ei's work in the Charlotte area. Ei Partner HMSHost, then Concord Mills food court concessionaire and the Charlotte Douglas International Airport foodservice operator, was integral to Ei's solid sustainability foundation in Charlotte.

Concord Mills food waste bin
Beginning in 2011, the SFCI Team worked closely with HMSHost and Simon on creating back-of-the-house (BOH) food waste collection for compost, food donation and plastic film recycling programs at Concord Mills. The ZWA Blog article, ACTION: Theme for the SFCI Shopping Mall Pilot, is an overview of the programs.

Charlotte successes were highlighted at the 2013 Charlotte Ei Partner Tours hosted by Simon | HMSHost. The IMPACT Blog article, Charlotte Ei Partner Tours, is a tours overview featuring the forerunner programs in-place.

In fall 2013 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 4 funded a Scaling Up Composting in Charlotte, NC Grant to GreenBlue's Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC). To maximize its impact, the grant was extended for an additional year along with funding. Ei is a grant sub-grantee. The ZWA Blog article, Scaling up Composting in Charlotte, NC, details the grant goal, objectives and tasks along with listing partners | sub-grantees.

"Scaling Up" was used in the grant name as Charlotte has a solid food waste composting program compliments of Earth Farms, a state-permitted facility. The grant serves as a catalyst to increase food waste collection for compost throughout the metro Charlotte area. The Ei FB album, Ei Partner Tours - Day 2, recounts an Earth Farms tour.

Rick, Kim & Ryan 
Although Ei orchestrated the February Charlotte visit, the EPA Grant was the focal point with Ei initiatives taking a back seat on meeting agendas. For the July visit, Ei initiatives were center stage at meetings with the EPA Grant playing a strong supporting role. Potential EPA Grant Participants appreciated Ei's Charlotte commitment beyond the grant's September 30 expiration.

The Ei SMAT - Sustainable Materials ACTION Team - provides in-depth industry expertise in materials management. SMAT members Rick Lombardo of NaturTec | NaturBag, Ken Fraser of EcoProducts, Sarah Martell of Innovia Films and Kim Charick with the EPA traveled to Charlotte and were instrumental to the visit success. Kim, Ei founder Holly Elmore, Earth Farms Owner Jim Lanier, GreenBlue Project Associate Ryan Cooper among others represented the EPA Grant at the meetings; Ryan took the leading grant role.

Mecklenburg County Environmental Manager, Waste Reduction Laurette Hall and her department were the local connectors to the prestigious facilities on the visit agenda. Laurette, thank you for your vision and commitment to move the Charlotte | Mecklenburg County waste reduction needle.

Mecklenburg County Jail
First on the itinerary was a fantastic meeting at the Mecklenburg County Sherriff's Office regarding food waste collection for compost at the county jails. The meeting was empowering as Chief Deputy Sheriff Felicia McAdoo, Captain Celeste Youngblood, and Officer Thomas Plummer were enthusiastic and asked pertinent questions. SUCCESS: the Mecklenburg County Jail joined the EPA Grant program!

Thank you Nick Crawford, Mecklenburg County senior environmental specialist, for arranging the Sheriff's Office meeting.

At the core of the Ei Charlotte visit was an Airborne Kitchen Grease (AKG), a proactive approach to a costly cooking byproduct, Initiative meeting at the Charlotte Airport. 

In February Laurette introduced the Ei Team to City of Charlotte Energy & Sustainability Manager Rob Phocus. An action point was a subsequent meeting with HMSHost at the airport to learn about the Grease Lock Filters (GLF) system, the AKG Initiative foundation within Ei's Water Use | Toxicity platform.

Rob & Kim during AKG session
GLF founder Joe Salpietra and HMSHost Senior Manager, Contracting Devon Ray flew to Charlotte for the empowering meeting. HMSHost Charlotte Airport Director of Operations Matt Wissman hosted the meeting along with a subsequent tour of GLF installations. Local GLF distributor Eric Dyer of KescorGreen Solutions for Grease Management, joined the airport meeting, as well as most other meetings. 

The Airborne Kitchen Grease presentation can be downloaded on Ei's AKG page.

It was thrilling to witness local, state & federal government associates attend the AKG airport meeting. In addition to the federal (EPA | Kim) and local (county | Laurette & city | Rob) governments, NC Department of Environment and Natural Resources Organics Recycling Specialist Jorge Montezuma represented state government at the airport and most meetings during the visit.

As documented in the AKG website page, GLF improve fire safety | employee safety, reduce kitchen exhaust system cleaning (both baffle filters and entire system) and related labor, save on toxic cleaning chemical use, prevent roof damage caused by deposited AKG and result in cost-savings for the foodservice operator.

Ei launched the AKG Initiative due to the significant water-savings, water that would be filled with toxic cleaning agents.

Joe & Devon discussing national
expansion plans
Subsequent to the airport meeting, Joe, Devon and Holly met to craft a national GLF expansion plan throughout the HMSHost substantial foodservice network, mainly in airports and turnpike service plazas. Last year, GLF | HMSHost executed a national procurement contract.

Thanks to Eric's local connections, the group enjoyed a lovely dinner at Aria Tuscan Grill's chef table. UNC Charlotte Research Intern Tyler Gilkerson joined the dinner. Tyler analyzes food waste samples collected at EPA Grant Participant sites, providing an added benefit for the grant and operators. It was fun to listen to Tyler and Ryan's tales of sample collection!

On the second day, the group convened at a Concord, NC Food Lion where Sustainability Manager John Laughead impressed the group with his infectious enthusiasm and thorough zero waste practices in-place. For front-of-the-house, Food Lion provides consumer recycling bins, clearly labeled for aluminum, plastic & glass containers,  plastic bags, film & wrap, and paper. The cashier checkout stations have recycling and trash bins under the counter.

Food Lion consumer recycling bins
Back-of-the-house practices include on-site OCC (old corrugated cardboard) baling, transport plastic film | wrap collection for baling at the distribution center and food waste collection for compost. Food waste is from products damaged upon delivery and unsalable prepared food & produce. For edible food beyond quality standards, Food Lion has an excellent donation program in-place that meets the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act.

While in Atlanta last month, John met at the EPA offices with Jay Bassett, chief, materials management, Jon Johnston, RCRA branch chief, and Kim. Applicable Food Lion stores were EPA Grant Participants prior to the visit!

During the back-of-the-house tour, Holly noticed waxed cardboard used for poultry packaging was separated for trash disposal. An action point is guiding Food Lion with their supply chain on shifting to an alternative coating that renders boxes recyclable and compostable. The ZWA Blog article, Waxed Cardboard Boxes =  Landfill Destiny = $$ Lost, gives an overview of the costly scenario.

Food Lion source-separates material
The afternoon was spent in follow-up meetings from the February visit with the Charlotte Convention Center and the Hornets Arena.

During the downtown event | sporting facilities meetings, the Ei focus was source-separated material (SSM) supported by the Total Materials Management Approach, the entire waste / recycling stream is evaluated within one revenue / cost center. Challenging materials are subsidized with rebates (revenue) from separated, clean bales of valuable items. For example, revenue from aluminum bales pays for compostable food & beverage packaging, a necessity for most post-consumer (front-of-the-house) food waste collection programs.

Inherent within a SSM program is understanding waste | recycling hauler contract provisions. Often contracts stipulate the hauler has rights to ALL material generated at the facility. Thus, SSM rebates belong to the hauler, not the facility generating the material. The ZWA Blog article, Contract provisions require team work necessary for zero waste success, documents the important role contract provisions play in creating an effective stage for food waste collection and source-separated material recycling.

Steve with the Earth Farms sign
CCC Assistant Director of Facilities & Engineering Doug Tober joined Food Services Operations Manager Steve Gorham, Procurement Manager Jeff Doerr and Assistant Director of Facility Services Roger Rochelle at the July meeting. After introductions and updates since the excellent February meeting, the group toured front and back-of-the-house operations. It was inspiring to witness the food waste collection practices in-place along with source-separated OCC baling.

The time together ended with a series of action points with Steve: 1> send AKG Initiative documentation, 2> request specific parameters related to protein | produce packaged in waxed OCC and 3> begin strategy process on how to expand food waste collection practices to front-of-the-house | post-consumer food waste.

Following the CCC visit, the group walked to the Hornets Arena where Director of Facility Operations Cathy Buchhofer and Hornets Arena Coordinator Alex Mackenzie hosted a superb meeting. With Alex's recent hire, the group gave a strong recap of the powerful February meeting.

Hornets meeting
Back-of-the-house food waste collection is slated to begin in the next weeks. Though focused on immediate action, Cathy was interested in the long-term support for solid arena zero waste practices. When the Ei Team returns to Charlotte in October, a longer-term strategy session is slated for the visit.

Once again relying on Eric's local expertise, the group enjoyed dinner on Ri-Ra Irish Pub's rooftop deck. After a hectic, amazing day, it was important to regroup in a casual, fun environment.

On the third and final day, Concord Mills General Manager Ray Soporowski welcomed the Ei | EPA Grant Team to the state's most visited tourist destination. In January, HMSHost left the mall as the food court concessionaire. Ray is working with the new tenants on re-establishing back-of-the-house food waste collection for compost practices. During the food court build out, the two-yard food waste dumpsters were removed due to contamination form the construction crews.

Ray with Ei | EPA Grant Team
in the plastic film recycling room
Ray and Holly gave an overview of Concord Mills past successes. Discussion focused on new endeavors with AKG, expanding the plastic film recycling practices, and opportunities via new single-standing restaurants in the lease negotiation phase. SUCCESS: Ray gave his YES to joining the EPA Grant Program during the meeting!

From Concord Mills, the team traveled the short distance to Northlake Mall and met with management on implementing a back-of-the-house food waste collection for composting program. Ei Partner Keter Environmental Services manages the mall's waste and recycling services; Keter Regional Manager Andrew Lantz traveled to Charlotte for the important meeting.

General Manager Adam Kamlet shared recent food waste experiences during his tenure at a San Francisco mall while Director of Operations Michael Signorelli expressed his strong program support. A main action point is to provide Michael talking points for the food waste program introduction to mall restaurants.

Nortlake Mall lunch destination
The game plan is to implement the food waste practices in phases, beginning with the two seated dining restaurants. Food court restaurants will follow once new operational practices are in-place and any challenges are addressed.

After a formal meeting in the mall conference room, the group enjoyed a lovely lunch at Firebirds Wood Fired Grill. During the lunch, Michael appreciated how the AKG proactive approach prevented costly roof damage; Eric is staged to follow-up on GLF introductions at the seated dining restaurants. Farewells to new friends were intertwined with action points over the next weeks.

Prior to attending the evening Knights baseball game, the SMAT members met for a two-hour working session on educational documentation under development. In April, the SMAT presented the Compostable Food & Beverage Packaging Education Session to the Levy Restaurants downtown Atlanta campus. With the announcement of the SFCI - Les Dames d'Escoffier International | Atlanta Chapter, SMAT is updating the session for a new audience.

SMAT working session
The ZWA Blog article, Compostable F&B Packaging: integral to zero waste programs & rebuilding the soil, introduces the education session while the Afternoon in the Country embarks on zero food waste journey article introduces the SFCI - LDEI | ATL Pilot.

Charlotte Knights Director of Stadium Operations Mark McKinnon welcomed the Ei | EPA Grant Team to the 7:00 p.m. game and gave a thorough tour of game day practices. Ovations General Manager Erik Hassy took time during the game to show the team back-of-the-house kitchen operations.

Due to provisions within the waste | recycling sponsorship contract, there are challenges creating a cost-effective material source-separation, including food waste, program at the ballpark. In October, a small group will meet with Mark to strategize on a game plan to refine existing recycling practices.

A limited portion of the ballpark's
spectacular view
IMPRESSIVE: the BB&T Knights Ballpark was named Best Ballpark in the Minors. “There can’t be a better view of a downtown skyline anywhere . . . It looks almost fake,” a minor league radio announcer wrote to Baseball America.

Unfortunately, the Carolina's Panthers Stadium was incredibly busy during the Charlotte visit and not available for a follow-up to the productive February meeting.

The Ei FB album, July 2015 Ei Charlotte Visit, provides a pictorial recap of the visit.

In her February closing statement, Laurette summarized the scenario with perfection: Charlotte is a Land of Opportunities! During the July visit, Charlotte opportunities segued into action points, filled with promise to reduce Charlotte area waste along with fueling local economic vitality. 

.. and the Ei Team returns to Charlotte in early October - stay tuned!

1 comment:

  1. It sounds like an informative event! Thanks for the details and photographs. I also need to arrange spacious meeting venues for the meetings with our new international clients. Could you suggest some meeting halls in Chicago!!

    ReplyDelete