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Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Food Waste: Too Valuable for the Landfill

Food waste generators, including the consumer, foodservice operators and food processors, are energized to shift their valuable by-product from the landfill to alternative destinations. Yet in many locales a state-permitted destination, whether composting, anaerobic digestion (A.D.) or other technology, does not exist or is not within economic distance.

When there is no permitted landfill alternative, on-site food waste digesters are appealing, especially with the wide range of systems offered in the market. In general, digesters use enzymes or other technologies to convert the food waste at an accelerated rate into either an effluent or a soil amendment. Proper disposal of the system end product is essential for integrity to prevail throughout the process.  

WOP employee happy to
show the on-farm digester
For Will Harris of White Oak Pastures, an on-farm digester is a strong contributing factor to zero waste achievement at his grass-fed beef ranch. In the U.S. WOP is one of two cattle ranches with an on-farm beef abattoir and the only one with poultry and beef abattoirs.  The WOP digester end product is effluent, which Will uses to irrigate his fields.  The ZWZ Blog post, Consumer Demand: A Powerful Voice to Effect Change, gives an overview of the White Oak Pastures farm tour.

For those in urban settings, the effluent generally flows into the local sewer system. It is important to monitor the effluent composition to ensure unintended consequences do not occur in the sewer system and the downstream waterways.

Elemental Impact Partner Global Enviro's on-site technology produces a quality soil amendment that may be direct-applied to soil or sent to a composting operation. The Global Enviro system comes in various sizes designed to service operations ranging from single-standing restaurants to large event venues. In the New York City area, Global Enviro has three successfully installed systems in operation: The Shops @ Riverside, The Hotel Intercontinental and Les Halles.

Food waste grinder in Les Halles kitchen
In early November Ei Partners met in NYC for a series of partner tours, including Global Enviro's operations.  Scheduled in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the touring group was small and only the Les Halles system was available for a visit. It was inspiring to witness how the system works in a single-standing operation.  

For details, see the tour pictorial recap in the Ei FB album, 11-05-12 Global Enviro System Tour.  The Global Enviro NJ Video is an overview of operations at The Shops @ Riverside. In Norway, the Global Enviro system was installed several years ago at the Oslo Opera House - the Oslo video shows how the system works in a large, multi-kitchen facility.

Global Enviro system end product
In NYC the Global Enviro end product is collected by Brooklyn Grange, who operates two urban roof-top farms.  In the spring, Brooklyn Grange will report to Global Enviro on how the soil amendment worked on the rooftop farms.

Until recently, most A.D. systems in the market place were configured for a municipality or possibly a generator with tremendous food waste output and high electricity usage. Biosolid A.D. systems are common in city water treatment facilities and communities are starting to explore the option of adding food waste to the system's recipe mix.

OSM BlueStreams PAD
While touring an on-farm A.D. facility this fall, Organics Solutions Management introduced the Ei Partners to their PAD - Portable Organic Digester - that fits on a waste compactor pad. The ZWA Blog post, Perpetual Life Cycle Systems - Simplicity is Key, gives a brief system synopsis.  For a pictorial recap of the impressive tour, visit the Ei FB album, 09-25-12 OSM On-Farm A.D. TourNote OSM added comments to many of the pictures with volume and technical details.

According to the U.S. Composting Council, there are less than 300 permitted compost facilities in the nation that accept food waste.  In regions like the Northeast where tipping fees are in the $100 per ton plus range, the investment required to install food waste systems like Global Enviro's make good business sense, especially for higher volume facilities.

Advancing Technology continues to expand horizons on the options available for food waste, . As the tides turn, food waste may soon be supported by a commodity market where generators are PAID for the material.  A wild concept?  Cooking oil from foodservice fryers took a similar journey a few years back - time will reveal HOW food waste becomes too valuable for a landfill destination.  

Monday, December 17, 2012

Second Annual F&B Packaging Meeting

2012 F&B Pkging Mtg
Group Picture
For the second consecutive December the non-profits and trade associations representing the entire food and beverage value chain gathered in Washington D.C. for a day of camaraderie, sharing and strategizing .  Elemental Impact and Global Green co-hosted the meeting held on 12-12-12, a powerful, important day!

The ZWA Blog post, Sustainable Foodservice Packaging Meeting, gives an overview of the first annual meeting that set the stage for the 2012 meeting. It was empowering to realize the industry progress over the past 12 months with many new industry working groups and projects established throughout the year.  The following lists the organizations registered for the meeting:
In the morning, each organization presented on their mission, stakeholders, 2012 activities and finished with planned 2013 projects.  The meeting agenda, PPT presentations and attendee list are  available for download on the Ei Meetings & Events page. 

With the group well-acquainted, the afternoon consisted of a strategy session on the challenges and barriers for sustainable uses and disposal of food and beverage packaging. Within the vibrant discussion several common topics prevailed: Best Practices, Policies & Regulations and Cyberspace Network (some prefer the term social media) communication tools.  

Under Best Practices several key factors emerged:
  • a Life Cycle approach for foodservice operators is key
  • the hierarchy of end uses must consider local options and infrastructure
  • reliable metrics are important for baselines and tracking success - current national publicized waste stats may be 40% plus understated.
Brenda Platt (ILSR)
giving her presentation
The question:  What is holding us back? led to the policy & regulations discussion.  Two answers for differences in U.S. behavior versus Japan & Europe were: 1> Japan has $1,000 per ton tipping fees and 2> parts of Europe has landfill bands. 

The common thread through the policy discussion centered on incentive-based regulations and consumer responsibility.  Extended Product Responsibility coupled with Extended Consumer Responsibility -   the entire value & product usage chain holds responsibility for spent products', along with by-products generated during production & usage, destination. 

Other policy discussions points included:
  • develop national policy to serve as guidelines for local implementation
  • garner industry support for policies & regulations
  • work in unison across the entire value chain 
  • develop strong economic incentives, including commodity market risk sharing, so action is voluntary; thus, not requiring regulations
Lynn Dyer (FPI) during
her presentation
The group committed to creating a communication network among the participants.  Each organization will share information in their respective networks as appropriate for their missions and stakeholders.

In the closing remarks, the group decided an annual meeting was important with direct communication throughout the year.  In the first quarter, many of the participants will attend the January USCC Annual Conference, The Magic of Compost, and the Charlotte Ei Partner Tours in early March.  With synergies ignited, informal rendezvous at various meetings and conferences will keep the energy strong until the December, 2013 annual gathering.

Scott & Lily Kelly (CoRR)
enjoying the reception
An Ei action point is to complete Front-of-the House Recycling Center Best Practices for publication.  Tom Lembo with CleanRiver chairs the Sustainable Food Court Initiative committee charged with documenting the FOH Best Practices.

For a pictorial recap of the meeting, visit the Ei FB album, BUILDING THE PATH: Exploring the Value Chain of F&B Packaging.  While on the Ei FB page, please like it!

As with most Ei events, the formal meeting ended with a casual wine reception, an excellent vehicle to relax and ground the powerful energy from the intense, important day.  New and long-time friends toasted to the successful meeting. Stay tuned for updates throughout the year!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Eliminate Wasted Food Journey, first steps

In her November Martha Stewart Whole Living feature article Spoil Alert, Elizabeth Royte's final paragraph includes the statement "For Elmore, who says she eats out seven nights a week to avoid food loss at home, this means finishing everything on her plate or asking, unashamedly, for a doggie bag." Yikes, although true and I am certain a paraphrased quote, the statement hit a strong chord within me, propelling a new action plan.

The article is a recap of Atlanta's wasted food heroes intertwined with stinging facts about our nation's food waste and wasted food scenario.  In June Elizabeth came to Atlanta for a whirlwind visit to interview the featured heroes. The ZWA Blog post, Atlanta  Wasted Food Heroes in National Spotlight, gives an article overview plus interesting anecdotes not in the article copy.

The waste inherent in our nation's food systems is astounding and infiltrates the entire production | consumption systems in place. 

In his groundbreaking 2010 book American Wasteland Jonathan Bloom awoke the nation to the staggering fact that nearly half of the food produced in the USA goes uneaten. Earlier this year, Dana Gunders further substantiated the food waste situation with her well-researched National Research Defense Council Issue Paper, WASTED: How America is Losing Up to 40% of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill.  Here are two snippets on household loss from the paper:
American families throw out approximately 25% of the food and beverages they buy. The cost estimate for the average family of four is $1,365 to $2,275 annually.  Consumer food waste also has serious implications for wasted energy.
Cheap, available food has created behaviors that do not place high value on utilizing what is purchased.  As a result, wasted food is simply not on the radar of many Americans, even those who consider themselves environment or cost-conscious.
Within the 40% waste statistic are two main categories:  Food Waste - inedible by-products inherent in the food production process (e.g. avocado skin and seed) and Wasted Food - edible food that is not consumed before disposal (e.g. avocado half left in the refrigerator until no longer edible).

ZWZ Participant, HMS Host
Tampa Airport with food
donation awaiting colletion
Under Elemental Impact's stewardship, the Zero Waste Zones program participation criteria required unserved food meeting the Good Samaritan Food Donation Law be donated (wasted food prevention) and kitchen scraps and plate scrapings (food waste) be collected for off-site composting or other state-permitted use. Note the National Restaurant Association's ZWZ program purchase this fall is documented in the ZWA Blog post, Ei: An Established Program Creator.

For those who follow the ZWA Blog, the vast majority of the posts are written in third person. When the topic is dear to my heart and personal in nature I write in first-person. I am personally and professionally committed to educating individual and corporate consumers on the stupendous food waste | wasted food scenario, along with developing easy-to-implement waste reduction practices.  

In the corporate arena, sound business principles are at the foundation of Ei's work. Yet this post breaks the ZWA Blog pattern in another style:  the focal point is the personal consumer, versus corporate consumer.

While reading about my dining habits in Spoil Alert, I realized my dining out behavior was avoidance in nature rather than proactive in waste reduction.  Committed to walking my talk, it was time for me to start cooking the majority of meals with a goal of consuming or gifting 100% of food purchased. The first action step was to get my kitchen back into operating order after literally three years of limited to no use.  The second action step was to contract with Compost Wheels for weekly kitchen scrap collection for composting. 

home food waste (kitchen scraps)
awaiting their composting destination
An accomplished cook after owning a catering business and two restaurants for 15 years, I understand menu planning and careful purchasing are key to preparing one-person meals with minimal waste generation.  If a quart of chicken stock is opened to make rice, then I commit myself  to using the remaining stock in sauces or soups prior to its spoil threshold.  Although fun, impulse purchasing often results in waste as the items may not easily complement planned menus.

Many culinary publications offer assistance on how to use ingredients in a variety of recipes.  For example, Fine Cooking includes a monthly Big Buy Cooking feature with tips and ideas on how to make tasty meals and treats from bulk purchases at wholesale clubs, such as Costco. Google searches reveal a myriad of resources on how to use left over meals and ingredients.

From the ZWZ program development, I know focus on waste results in waste reduction.  Thus, I inaugurated My Wasted Food Diary to document weekly wasted food along with a description of WHY the food was not consumed.  In my first entry excess rice was thrown out as I failed to plan for two consecutive evening business dinners.

Thyme bundle drying
for later use
Additionally, I list pending challenges for food nearing the wasted marker.  YEA - friends responded with simple, effective suggestions for the food.  Thus, the remaining thyme is tied and drying for later use.

Validating Dana's comment "wasted food is simply not on the radar screen of many Americans" two astute friends suggested I purchase a worm bin to solve my dilemma. It shocked me to realize recycling, versus my REDUCTION | ELIMINATION focus, was at the forefront of their well-intended comments.  Hmmmm..... wasted food awareness seems to remain in its infancy.

My intentions are to post weekly on My Wasted Food Diary to document my journey, learn from reader comments and encourage the community to embrace wasted food best practices.  Successes and stumbles will infiltrate the lighthearted diary along with encouragement to join the journey.

I invite you to join The Eliminate Wasted Food Journey however works best for you. Please share your efforts with friends to learn from and inspire them.  No matter the quantity of individual waste reduction, the collective impact is tremendous and imperative to regaining balance in our food systems.  Thank you! 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Recycling Team Spirit @ Panthers Games

At the Sunday Broncos game, the Carolina Panthers recycling team collected 3.43 tons of material from game tailgaters. Another 3.33 tons of material came from the stadium for a total of 6.76 tons.  Congratulations!!!!

It takes team spirit from volunteers, parking lot attendants, fans and the City of Charlotte Waste & Recycling staff during off-hours to orchestrate a successful program. Volunteers from Green Drinks and Bank of America contributed their weekend time as Panthers recycling team members.

Panthers Recycling Team
photo courtesy of Jake Wilson
Keeping the program fun with rewards adds to the success: two exceptional tailgaters received Bojangles gift cards on Sunday. The next game will reward the two best parking lot attendants with gift cards and recognition.

Keep Mecklenburg Beautiful executive director Jake Wilson is the head recycling cheerleader and orchestrates the impressive program.  

In January the ZWA Blog post, Panthers Winning Season, gives an overview of the 2011 | 2012 season recycling metrics. Program history along with the details necessary to coordinate the many organizations, companies and volunteers for success are shared.  Stay tuned for a season finale post with the impressive stats intertwined among game day anecdotes.

Panther recycling success epitomizes Zero Waste is a Team Sport and the Power of "WE" in action mode.  Thank you Jake for building an amazing Charlotte Team that goes well beyond Panthers recycling.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Concord Mills: The Power of "WE" in ACTION!

Concord Mills
In August, 2012 Concord Mills - a Simon Property Group mall near Charlotte, NC - was designated the Sustainable Food Court Initiative Pilot in the ZWA Blog post, Concord Mills - SFCI Pilot!.  

Without missing a beat, the CM team moved into immediate action with food waste collection for composting and baling plastic film generated by mall tenants for recycling.  The ZWA Blog September post, ACTION - Theme for the SFCI Shopping Mall Pilot, gives the details on program launches.

Indicative of their team spirit, Ray Soporowski - CM general manager- and Brian Shetron - CM HMSHost food court general manager - sent over impressive, independent program updates within hours of each other.  Their updates are the foundation and inspiration for this post.

On September 21 HMSHost entered into an arrangement with Second Harvest to donate un-served food meeting the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act to the organization.  At 300 - 400 pounds of quality food per week, the donations make a significant difference in the community. The ZWA Blog post, Food Waste Donation: Everyone Wins! details the program launch and how the bottom line improves for all concerned.

Rev White collecting donated food
Photo courtesy of HMSHost
In mid October Second Harvest introduced HMSHost to Reverend Sterling White of Urban Streets Ministries who now picks-up the food each Thursday morning. USM prepares the food to feed hungry folks in the following priority: 1> in the ministry's cafeteria, 2> in "to go" boxes for those living on the streets and 3> in family care packages for those in need. Under the Second Harvest arrangement with USM food is served the day received with reduced transportation | delivery emissions, expenses and labor.

HMSHost developed an effective, simple food donation system, which Ray may offer to the dining establishments located outside of the food court.  On a broader scale, Simon may create a food donation template for their mall food court and restaurant operations. 

Thanks to Brian's dedication, HMSHost has a food court operations template to explore in their extensive airport, travel center and mall operations.  HMSHost is a pro at donating "grab 'n go" meals from airport foodservice operations - see the ZWA Blog post, Reduce First, Donate Second, Compost Third, for an overivew of Tampa Airport's stellar food donation program. Brian is a team player who expanded upon an established foundation.

CM food waste collection for composting began in June with the HMSHost-operated food court, Dave & Buster's and Macado's participating. To date, 23.4 tons of food waste was diverted from trash to composting - darned impressive!

new food waste collection bin
photo courtesy of HMSHost
The program's logistics are in the evolution process: the original 64-gallon collection bins were replaced with two 2.5 cubic yard bins on each side of the food court. CM staff uses a forklift to transport the bins to the nearest loading area for the weekly collection by Earth Farms for composting. A later post will document how the new bins improved, or not, food waste collection.

Hmmm.... is a future program destined that incorporates the compost back into CM's landscape and water management systems??!!

In the food court, Grease Lock installed the kitchen hood filter systems discussed in the September post.  Only weeks into the pilot Brian is impressed with their performance. Stay tuned for updates on anticipated water, cleaning chemicals and labor savings.

Ray with Orwak baler
used for plastic film recycling
Inaugurated on August 20, the plastic film recycling program is gaining momentum with twice per week tenant porter service in-place to collect the tremendous plastic film volume generated by tenant operations. To date 40 bales consisting of 5,300 pounds of plastic film were collected and sold in the recycling commodities market. Ray estimates the program to generate an estimated 150 tons of plastic film per year once in full-swing with complete tenant engagement.

HMSHost collects the plastic film accumulated in their operations for recycling, mostly from single-use products and bread-type items packaging.

Prior to the SFCI Pilot launch, an efficient cardboard recycling program was in-place and Ray anticipates recycling an estimated 450 tons of OCC - old corrugated cardboard - annually. With a strong OCC market, the cardboard is a significant contributor to a recycling PROFIT center.

Months into the recycling programs, Ray experiences an improved bottom line even with equipment investments, additional labor and the start-up learning curve.  Ray is enthusiastic about the value of zero waste practices from the economic and environmental perspectives.

Partial SFCI CM Team
In the Zero Waste is a Team Sport blog post, the "WE" consciousness shift is introduced as a necessity to achieving zero waste.  The CM SFCI team is a prime example of the "WE" in action mode.  

In addition to Ray and Brian working in unison, the SFCI Team includes local government and non-profits - Keep Mecklenburg County Beautiful & Mecklenburg County, national non-profits - Elemental Impact, Institute for Local Self-Reliance & the Sustainable Packaging Coalition, national trade associations - the Foodservice Packaging Institute and the National Restaurant Association, local purveyors - Earth Farms, and industry experts - BASF, CleanRiverHeritage Interactive ServicesNatureWorks & Orwak.

When operating in the "WE" mode, the possible emerges from impossible. For Ray and Brian, the "WE" consciousness is their natural operating mode; they are setting the standard for others to follow. Stay tuned for exciting tales from the "WE" adventures!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Biopolymer End of Life - or is it?

River Walk view from the
The biopolymers community converged on the San Antonio River Walk for a two-day conference held at the Westin River Walk. Smithers Rapra orchestrated the excellent conference with perfection. In-depth sessions on pertinent topics were presented by respected industry experts with plenty of networking options infiltrated within the program.

In simplistic terms biopolymers are plant-based derived polymers. Unlike traditional plastics made from oil or natural gas, biopolymers originate from starch, sugarcane and other renewable based resources. Polylactic acid (or PLA). is an example of a commonly used biopolymer.  A key difference with biopolymers versus traditional plastics is their renewable backbone and the additional end of life options, such as recycling, composting, waste to energy, anaerobic digestion and others.

In a foodservice application leading role, PLA emerges as cold beverage cups (draft beer cups at "green festivals"), cutlery and hot cup lids. In its supporting role, PLA is the film protection on paper products to prevent liquid absorption (coffee cups, nacho trays at "green stadiums"). PLA resin-based applications extend well beyond foodservice including electronics, packaging (foam and films), durable (or injection molded based), fibers & non-woven’s and many other end uses. For this article, foodservice use is the focus.

Danielle Marks of Smithers &
John Baldus @ opening reception
Biopolymer end-of-life is intrinsic to Elemental Impact's zero waste initiatives. Compostable packaging is key to incorporating zero waste practices at event venues, festivals, food courts and any operation where food is served in single-use service ware. Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport included a groundbreaking provision in their new concessionaire contract requiring food vendors to use compostable consumer-facing packaging and service ware.  For details, see the ZWA Blog post, Atlanta Airport Makes a Bold Sustainable Statement.

Ei attended the pre-conference Anaerobic Digestion Forum moderated by conference chair John Baldus, Sustainable Manufacturing Specialist at the Wisconsin State Energy Office. Presenters and attendees traveled the globe to attend the forum. With an intimate crowd, the sessions remained casual with lively dialogue interspersed among the presentations and closing panel discussion.

A.D. Forum Presenters
Most of the presentations were technical in nature, perfect for the audience. Addressing how biopolymers fare in A.D. systems was the common thread throughout the sessions. Intertwined within graphs, charts and data, it appears biopolymers have a slow conversion rate to methane gas. Yet the high carbon to nitrogen ratio can help to balance feedstocks with low ratios, such as those from dairy operations (i.e. ice cream by-products).

On the final conference day Ei Advisory Council member Brenda Platt, Institute for Local Self-Reliance co-director, moderated an impressive panel, Innovative management strategies for End of Life. In her opening remarks, Brenda provided an impressive recap of prior conference sessions and how they pertain to the biopolymer end of life.

End of Life Panel
Thanks to funding from John Baldus' Wisconsin State Energy Office, the University of Wisconsin - Stevens Point campus embarked on a PLA recovery and recycling pilot project at the campus foodservice operations. Dr. Paul Fowler, Wisconsin Institute for Sustainable Technology executive director, presented on the in-process pilot with promising to-date results. Although best known for its compostable nature, it is important to explore extending PLA's life through recovery and recycling programs.

Dick Lilly - business area manager for waste prevention and product stewardship, Seattle Public Utilities Solid Waste Division- was a star in his presentation on the impact Seattle's regulations makes on industry and consumer behavior. The formal session name says it all: Seattle's Single-Use Food Service Packaging Law - How one city's regulations impacted the biopolymers industry.

Dick Lily @ podium
At the basis of Dick's presentation was Seattle's intentions to collect food waste and how the compostable packaging regulation was a major driver for post-consumer food waste collection. Not easy and not complete, Dick gave a long list of "What Made it Work" showcasing the no exceptions stance, a strong local composter, industry engagement and public education as imperative for to-date success. Green washing is an issue highlighting the importance of labels and third party product review as program foundations.  Seattle is on an important journey where the intended destination continues to evolve.

While Seattle opted for regulations to capture food waste for composting, Atlanta used contract provisions. The Atlanta Airport compostable packaging requirements are referenced earlier in the post. Ei founder Holly Elmore and Ei Partner Steve Davies of NatureWorks co-presented in the Biopolymers Role in Zero Waste Programs session.

Holly focused on Ei's foundation, successes and role as a creator and the driving force in initiative development:

Ei determines what could be done that is not being done and gets it done.  Ei brings the possible out of impossible.
Brenda & Steve @ reception
In his presentation, Steve addressed the specific role biopolymers play in zero waste programs along with the documentation developed for the Atlanta Airport contract provision compliance. Holly and Steve's PPT presentation may be downloaded on the Ei Speaking Engagements page.

Richard Gertman, principal at For Sustainability Too, finished the formal presentations with a detailed report on a California sponsored pilot on the recovery of PLA products through optical sorting.  The panel-style program ended with a lively question | answer session.

For a pictorial recap of the conference, receptions and San Antonio River Walk, visit the Ei FB album, 10-12 Biopolymers Conference in San Antonio.

Biopolymer End of Life - or is it?  When composted, biopolymers may continue in a Perpetual Life Cycle System where it decomposes into nutrients for healthy soil and plants that serve as the basis for PLA resin.  

Ei Team tour group - Doug is on left
The ZWA Blog post, Perpetual LIfe Cycle Systems - Simplicity is Key, introduces the PLC system via an overview of an on-farm A.D. tour. Doug Kunneman of NatureWorks and Sustainable Food Court Initiative Chair participated in the tour to understand how A.D. may play a role in front-of-the-house food court food waste.

Fun and educational, the Biopolymers Conference was the perfect energy for effecting the necessary change in our community and corporate culture. Ei is honored to serve as a conference presenter and media partner.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Collaboration is Key to Success

In early October, the National Restaurant Association and the U.S. Composting Council announced their formal partnership.  Here is the official language from the press release:
The NRA and USCC are teaming up to raise awareness about food waste diversion, composting education, and other sustainable activities nationwide. The two organizations will share educational resources and identify collaborative opportunities that promote awareness of the role composting plays in waste reduction, improved soil and water quality.
NRA - USCC leadership at their
first meeting in December, 2011
Understanding the tremendous synergies, Elemental Impact orchestrated the introductory meeting between the two powerful trade associations in December, 2011.  The ZWA Blog post, NRA Leads Industry Collaboration, is an overview of the inaugural meeting that set the stage for the formal partnership between the trade associations for food waste generators and destinations.

As the trade association for the foodservice industry, a major commercial food waste generator, the NRA can mobilize the operators to source-separate food waste for diversion from landfill.  The USCC, trade association for composters and other permitted uses of food waste, is committed to building a strong food waste destination network. Challenge:  there are limited  permitted food waste options other than landfills in many communities.

commercial food waste at a
composting site
According to the U.S. EPA, an estimated 97.5% of the nation's food waste is landfill bound - a travesty for all concerned:  
  • Foodservice operators pay landfill tipping fees, generally higher than composting operation tipping fees.  Thus, detrimental to their bottom line
  • Higher transportation costs and toxic emissions as dumpsters and compactors are often pulled before capacity due to the decomposing food waste smell.
  • Methane gas is generated during food decomposition in the anaerobic conditions inherent within landfills.  Even with landfill methane gas recapture systems, a significant portion of the methane gas is released into the atmosphere.  Note methane gas is a 20 -25% more potent greenhouse gas than carbon.
  • Soil is the biggest loser as food waste is a value ingredient in the compost recipe.  Compost provides valuable nutrients to the microbial community responsible for creating healthy, well-structured soil vital to control erosion and produce naturally healthy food.
Together the two industry trade associations may create the policy platforms necessary to shift the regulatory environment to one supportive of compost and waste to energy options for commercial food waste. 

USCC executive director Michael Virga sums up the relationship in his quote "The USCC and NRA, two esteemed associations, are teaming up to share resources and promote our complementary objectives of diverting organic residuals away from disposal and into good use. These efforts will help NRA members improve their environmental bottom line while helping our members secure new sources of raw material for their compost manufacturing"

Agreeing, Scott DeFife - NRA executive vice-president policy and public affairs - adds "As local governments increase their efforts to manage their environments, composting organic residuals can significantly reduce landfill impacts while creating a healthier ecosystem. This partnership represents a win-win for our communities and the environment."

In addition to policy, food safety is paramount to developing sound, effective systems for commercial food waste.  The ZWA Blog post, Safety & Education: A Necessary Marriage, discusses how safety infiltrates the NRA and USCC  foundations. Important educational programs are destined to develop within the partnership.

Ei is honored to serve as the connecting force supporting the NRA - USCC partnership announcement.  Collaboration is key to success - Ei plays the role of bringing together the various organizations necessary to effect change.  

Saturday, October 20, 2012

National Restaurant Association Acquires Zero Waste Zones

ZWZ Two-Yr Press Conference
At the Zero Waste Zones February, 2011 Two-Year Anniversary Press Conference, the National Restaurant Association announced their collaboration with Elemental Impact and the ZWZ program.  In a formal statement, Scott DeFife - NRA executive vice-president policy and public affairs - voiced strong support for the program's impact:

Atlanta’s Zero Waste Zone program has been incredibly successful, and we are now looking to expand that success to communities nationwide.  Sustainability is imperative to our industry, other business communities and the general public. Working with Elemental Impact, we are bringing industry stakeholders together to enable our members to establish - and succeed in reaching - waste diversion and resource recovery goals.

In late September, the NRA acquired the ZWZ program with intentions to expand the program nationally within the state restaurant association network. Exciting news as the program may evolve and increase its impact within the depth of the NRA's educational, training and policy resources. 

The ZWZ program achieved national accolades as a pioneer in the commercial collection of food waste for composting when it launched at an acclaimed press conference in February, 2009.  By acquiring the program, the NRA validates the importance of the program and its potential impact within the foodservice industry, the nation's second largest private industry.

While in her tenure as the Green Foodservice Alliance executive director & founder, Ei founder Holly Elmore brought a vision into grounded action through the ZWZ program.  In January, 2010, the ZWZ transferred stewardship to Ei as the program continued to gain momentum in its national leadership role. For a brief history along with program criteria, visit the Ei ZWZ page.

Ei continues work in zero waste realms through the Sustainable Food Court Initiative, Recycling Integrity, speaking engagements and educational workshops. In October an Ei Partner Team consisting of Amy Moreland of Heritage Interactive Services, Chris Bradlee of BASF and Holly visited Newark for two days of zero waste meetings and a workshop hosted by the City of Newark Office of Sustainability.  The ZWA Blog post, Ei Team Visits Newark for Zero Waste Education, gives an overview of the visit.

The NRA ZWZ acquisition substantiates Ei as a creator and incubator for developing programs within the corporate, government and educational communities.  A common phrase in Holly's speaking engagements summarizes the overall driving force in Ei initiatives:
Ei determines what could be done that is not being done and gets it done.  Ei brings the possible out of impossible.

Ei's tagline Sustainability in ACTION moved into evolved dimensions of impact and prominence  Stay tuned for future exciting announcements from Ei and the NRA with respect to the ZWZ and beyond!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Atlanta Wasted Food Heroes in National Spotlight

Elizabeth smelling ripe
fruit ready for harvest
Atlanta's wasted food crusaders receive a national spotlight in a November Whole Living feature article, Spoil Alert, by renowned nature | science writer Elizabeth Royte.  In addition to one of four feature articles, editor-in-chief Alanna Stang dedicates an entire paragraph to Spoil Alert in her Editor's Letter.

In June Elizabeth traveled to Atlanta for a whirlwind two-day interview marathon hosted by Elemental Impact founder Holly Elmore. The ZWA Blog post, Atlanta's Focus on Food Waste Reduction, is an overview of the visit along with interesting anecdotes from the local wasted food warriors.  For a pictorial recount, visit the Ei FB album, 06-12 Elizabeth Royte ATL Visit.

A talented journalist, Elizabeth crafts an excellent highlight of the local heroes who put Atlanta on the map as a national leader in food waste reduction.  Intertwined within the hero mini-profiles is an abundance of the staggering facts at the foundation of our nation throwing out 40% of our food, most of it perfectly edible. Creative solutions are also included such as "In Australia, Hong Kong and Saudia Arabia, there are reports of eating establishments that actually levy modest fines on diners who leave food on their plates."

Humor is interjected within the copy via her descriptions of Holly's attire - "with her flouncy skirts and jaunty hats in matching sorbet colors", driving style - "careening across town", industry connections - "the Kevin Bacon of wasted food," professional operating mode - "I create things. It never occurs to me to do any research. I'm a Scorpio" and energy level - "and her energy level slightly exhausting."

Spoil Alert magnifies the diversity of effort necessary to create an efficient effective food system, where wasted food is eliminated and food waste is the inedible by-product of food processing and cooking.  Integral to system development is the equitable distribution of food to the entire population spectrum.

Robby among his beloved
urban fruit bearing trees
First on the interview circuit, Robby Astrove, a volunteer with Concrete Jungle - a grass roots urban foraging organization, understands the abundance of food growing in our urban environment. Known for its in-town "greenscape" Atlanta is plentiful with fruit bearing trees whose bounty is now harvested  by Concrete Jungle.  Once cleaned the fruit is delivered to local shelters. Since 2009, more than 5 tons of fruit has been harvested and delivered to those who rarely enjoy fresh, seasonal fruit.

A volunteer with Second Helpings, Myron Smith used his business acumen to create a donation program for delicious, nutritious food from farmers markets, grocery stores, festivals and foodservice operators previously landfill bound. In team spirit, Myron works in collaboration with the Atlanta Community Food Bank to ensure their complementary services maximize community benefit.

Foodservice is the second largest industry in the nation and a tremendous generator of wasted food. Charter Zero Waste Zones Participants, Affairs to Remember and Fifth Group Restaurants shared their experiences as pioneers in food waste collection for composting. With zero waste practices firmly in place, Patrick Cuccaro, ATR general manager, and Steve Simon, FGR partner, focus on taking their sustainability focus to new dimensions. 

Steve Simon on Ecco's rooftop
ATR Executive Chef Ahmad Nourzad uses his eagle eye to minimize waste in the production process while Patrick educates the sales team on how to sell menus that minimize waste.  When opening their latest restaurant Lure, Steve installed an innovative rainwater system that also collects air conditioning condensate water for use in the restaurant's toilets.

The Georgia World Congress Center Authority is honored in the article as the Zero Waste Zones 2009 launch pad. 

Ei pals Johnathan Bloom,  American Wasteland author, and Dana Gunders of the National Resource Defense Council received strong mention in the article.  Note Dana is the author of the NRDC Issue Paper, Wasted: How America is losing up to 40% of its food from farm to fork to landfill, released in August this year. Dana's concise two-page December, 2011 Food Fact Sheet, Your Scraps Add Up: Reducing food waste can save money and resources, was the catalyst for the ZWA Blog post, Reduce First, Donate Second, Compost Third, the second all-time most popular post on the blog.

Elizabeth interviewing Paula of
Heirloom Gardens
A common theme throughout the article is ALL effort is important where wasted food is concerned, no matter the size.  Myron puts it succinctly "For someone who is hungry, nothing is too small."  Paula Guilbeau of Heirloom Gardens, one of the farmers who works closely with Myron, visited a shelter where her unsold produce is delivered.  It was a powerful experience for Paula, who summarizes her role as "I know I'm just one person helping, but I do believe in the power of one."

This blog post is a mere snippet of Elizabeth's powerful article. Use your voice to support action on our nation's wasted food addiction by purchasing the magazine.  Whole Living is widely distributed wherever magazines are sold and will be on the racks until early November.

Consider writing Elizabeth on her blog and submitting editorial comments to Whole Living in support of the article.  Editors and publishers will print more articles on wasted food when they understand it sells magazines and promotes reader dialogue.

Thank you Elizabeth for taking the time to meet Atlanta's heroes and shining a bright light on their superlative work. It seems you survived the two-days in Holly's 18 year old red convertible careening around Atlanta without too many scars.  Know many will be surprised to learn Holly owns a car!