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Monday, April 11, 2016

The Zero Waste Journey: Supply | Value Chain, WE Consciousness & Power of Consumer Demand are Integral to Success

In late March Professor Basak Kalkanci at the Georgia Tech Scheller College of Business invited Elemental Impact Founder Holly Elmore to give a 60-minute lecture on the Supply Chain's Role in Zero Waste to the Supply Modeling undergraduate class. It was a perfect opportunity for Holly to consolidate many topics into one powerful presentation.

ISM March 2013 cover
The Journey to a Zero Waste Supply Chain written by Holly was the featured Sustainability Column article in the Inside Supply Management (ISM) March 2013 issue.  ISM is published by the Institute for Supply Management, a national trade association. The ZWA Blog article, Supply Chain Critical to Zero Waste Success, gives an article overview along with specific examples.The article pdf is available for download on the Ei Print Media page. The article served as a starting point for Holly's presentation preparation.

After establishing Ei's prominent role in the ground breaking Zero Waste Zones followed by the Sustainable Food Court Initiative, Holly asked the question: "What is Zero Waste?" In unison with the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC), Ei answers the question with the following zero waste parameters:
  • Defined as a journey with no pre-determined destination.
  • Begins with the goal of 90% diversion of material from landfill, incineration (waste-to-energy)) and the environment.
  • Requires working with Supply Chain:
    • Shift “trash packaging" to recyclable material.
    • Addresses waste within Supply Chain operations.
Zero waste program success requires a consciousness shift on numerous levels. In simplistic terms, the following three initial shifts are necessary to create a World Without Waste:

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 or recycled. The Ei Recycling Refinement platform dives deeper into the holographic approach necessary to ensure integrity is maintained throughout the entire material management process.

Ei Team on the Farm AD Tour
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. The ZWA Blog post, Perpetual Life Cycle System (PLSC)- Simplicity is Key, introduces PLCS using an on-farm anaerobic digester as an example 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 within the third shift. The ZWA Blog article, Zero Waste is a Team Sport, introduces the WE Consciousness at work in successful zero waste programs.
As it travels the zero waste journey, a company realizes the remaining "trash" going to landfill is predominantly transport packaging. Thus, it is time to invoke the Power of Consumer Demand and work closely with the Supply Chain. 

In the ZWA Blog article, Consumer Demand: A Powerful Voice to Affect Change, the following facts are introduced:

FACT: Manufacturing companies are in the business of making products that consumers, whether corporate or personal, will purchase at a fair market value.

FACT: Manufacturers must make a reasonable profit and adapt to shifts in consumer demand to remain a viable business.  

FACT: The consumer, whether personal or corporate, may use the power of demand and spending dollars to influence items manufactured along with the related packaging and production practices.

Ei Team @ Piazza Tour
Scott is on far right
Shifts in transport packaging revolve around reducing the volume of material used and evolving from "trash" to "material packaging." With the easy win packaging shifts, ALL win as the supplier reduces theirs shipping costs, the consumer may reuse | recycle packaging and landfill bound trash is reduced. By reducing landfill hauls, the company saves dollars on tipping | pull charges. In addition, landfill life is extended - a big concern for many communities.

Working within the WE Consciousness, Piazza Produce Facilities Manager Scott Lutocka directly connected with a California-based herb farmer regarding their produce packaging. With the Styrofoam cushion | insulation glued to the cardboard box, the shipping box was rendered trash. Even though Styrofoam and cardboard are recyclable individually, collectively the box was trash due to the adhesive.

Simple solution: stop using glue to adhere the Styrofoam to the box! The herb farmer WINS with lower labor and product cost; Piazza wins with a recyclable box, instead of trash. The community wins with less material in the local landfill. Note Piazza sends the Styrofoam to a manufacturing plant that makes picture frames sold in Walmart.

the now recyclable herb
transport box
When feasible Piazza Produce delivers product in reusable containers and works with customers on collection via the following produce delivery. Piazza donates other hard plastic boxes to the Gleaners Food Bank of Indianapolis for reuse. When spent, the reusable boxes are dismantled to separate different materials for recycling.

... and Piazza Produce is Gold USZWBC Zero Waste Facility Certified! Piazza is the only zero waste foodservice distributor in the nation and a true industry pioneer thanks to Zero Waste Warrior Scott Lutocka!

The previously mentioned Zero Waste is a Team Sport article features an impressive tour of Piazza's zero waste operations. For a pictorial recap, visit the Ei FB album, 09-24-12 Piazza Produce Zero Waste Tour.

Atlanta-based Ted's Montana Grill (TMG), a national restaurant group with over 50 locations, takes their sustainability initiatives seriously. With the recent "no bare hand" contact mandates across the country, disposable gloves segued into a major purchasing item. Working within the WE Consciousness, TMG Purchasing & Sustainability Manager Paula Owens contacted their glove supplier regarding the packaging. By using a smaller cube footprint, the overall packaging was reduced for the same glove quantity. 

Result: a 7,850 pound reduction in packaging material delivered to TMG!

... and TMG is a loyal Piazza Produce customer for their Indiana-based restaurants!

clever toilet paper core
recycling container
Working within the WE Consciousness is standard operating practice at Earth Friendly Products. Under the direction of EFP Vice-President of Sustainability and Education Nadereh Afsharmanesh, zero waste action is interwoven within the corporate culture. In the facility bathrooms, there are small recycling containers next to the sink for the toilet paper cores.

Understanding zero waste success includes using "waste-free" raw materials in their manufacturing process, EFP established a Supplier Code of Conduct (SCC) including a sustainability questionnaire. Negative questionnaire answers require an explanation. With WE Consciousness at its core, EFP trains their suppliers on zero waste practices. Nadereh visits vendor manufacturing plants to witness practices in-place and provide helpful recommendations.

The EFP SCC requires vendors to deliver products in sustainable packaging, with no Styrofoam permitted. EFP works with vendors to create reusable packaging delivery systems. As a result of EFP's strong vendor relationships, a major supplier switched from adhesive labels to recyclable labels. 

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

Nadereh & associate with
plant recycling bins
The ZWA Blog article, Zero Waste Makes Good Business Sense, chronicles the Fourth Annual National Zero Waste Business Conference breakout sessions. Nadereh was a panelist on the Source Separation Maximizes Material Value moderated by Holly. The article opens with a feature of Holly's EFP plant tour hosted by Nadereh. For a pictorial recap of the tour, visit the comprehensive Ei FB album, 2015 National Zero Waste Conference - "The Stars of Zero Waste.

With the above Piazza Produce, EFP and TMG "working with the Supply Chain" examples, several common points emerge:
  • Sustainable packaging shifts impact the vendor’s entire customer base.
  • Industry pioneers who take leadership roles are important for necessary supply chain | transport packaging evolution.
  • Economics are a key component in zero waste | sustainability programs. In most cases, zero waste practices - including packaging evolution - improve the bottom line for the vendor and purchasing company.

Within the USZWBC Zero Waste Facility Certification, the Supply Chain is addressed within the Zero Waste Purchasing category with the following point options:
  • Environmentally Preferred Purchasing (EPP) policy.
  • Durable goods over disposables.
  • Sustainably produced items.
  • Used, refurbished goods preferred.

In the ZWA Blog article, Third Party Certification Edges Industry Towards a Zero Waste Economy, the Zero Waste Facility Certification is introduced. In addition, the article stresses the invaluable role third party certifications play by maintaining integrity within an emerging industry and expanding standard operating practices boundaries.

As industry pioneers gain momentum in their zero waste success, the time arrived to shift focus from the Supply Chain to the Value Chain. 

In the Value Chain focus the entire spectrum of those impacted by respective products, including customers, the community, and the environment, are addressed with equal concern. For product | packaging evolution success, solutions must make good business sense for the entire value chain.

From 2011 through 2014, Ei hosted the Annual Sustainable Food & Beverage Packaging Value Chain meetings at Global Green's Washington D.C. offices. Trade association and non-profit executives from the entire sustainable food & beverage packaging Value Chain met each December for a day of vibrant dialogue and sharing. As an emerging industry, it was important to capture and nurture synergies among the powerful meeting participants.

F&B Pkging Value Chain Mtg
Group photo @ final meeting
Mission Accomplished: the original meeting intention was to harness industry synergies among the complementary organizations. During the 2014 presentations, it was empowering to witness the tremendous synergies, along with many joint pilots | programs, among the meeting participants. Beginning in 2015, the group convenes with a two-hour conference call rather than a full-day meeting.

Within the Value Chain focus, the following components emerge:
  • Industry takes responsibility for their product impact on their customers, the community and the environment.
  • WE Consciousness is at work when value chain representatives use synergies to create sustainable solutions.
  • Focus is economic, product quality | safety, and community | environmental health driven.
At the foundation of a balanced Value Chain focus is the WE Consciousness | Power of Consumer Demand with integrity intertwined within and without. Zero waste companies strive to create a World Without Waste via the following actions:
  • ensure products delivered to their facilities are “waste-free” in the manufacturing process and transport packaging.
  • manufacture, assemble and | or distribute in a "waste-free" environment.
  • sell products in recyclable | reusable packaging causing “no waste” for their customers.
Rather than seeking to "achieve zero waste," industry pioneers use their leadership role to expand boundaries and definitions of waste. Thus, the journey continues!  

______________________

NOTE: Holly's Supply Chain's Role in Zero Waste PPT presentation is available for download on the Ei Speaking Engagements page.

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