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Saturday, January 28, 2012

BPI Certified Compostable Program Evolves

In early January,  Biodegradable Products Institute announced NSF International will administer the BPI compostable packaging certification process. Since the first product certification in 2002, more than 230 products from over 130 global companies earned the BPI  Certified Compostable distinction.

With the foodservice industry embracing source-separated organics for composting collection, the number and type of compostable products seeking certification is certain to escalate in upcoming years.  BPI's partnership with well-respected NSF International builds a foundation capable of handling the increased certification applicants with ease and adherence to the strict standards set during program formation.

As documented in the ZWZ Blog, Atlanta Airport Makes Bold Sustainable Statement, the recently awarded concessionaire contracts at the busiest airport in the world require food vendors use compostable serviceware and consumer-facing packaging in their operations.  The Atlanta Airport is a Sustainable Food Court Initiative Pilot and the SFCI Team is supporting concessionaires meet the coompostable product contract provision.  As a general rule, BPI certification is required for a product to meet the compostable packaging definition.

The BPI developed the Certified Compostable program for plastics to apply science-based test methods developed by the American Society of Testing and Materials (ASTM) to verify a material will compost in a municipal or commercial facility, leaving no toxic or lingering plastic. Product testing mimics what takes place in a typical municipal or commercial composting system. To pass these ASTM tests, a product must:
  • Disintegrate quickly leaving no visible residue that has to be screened out
  • Biodegrade fully or convert rapidly to carbon dioxide, water and biomass
  • Result in compost that can support plant growth
  • Not introduce high levels of regulated metals into the soil
Certified compostable items range from compostable bags and foodservice items to packaging materials, widely distributed consumer products and even wax and shellac coatings. The BPI Compostable Logo identifies products that have been independently tested and verified to biodegrade and compost quickly, safely and completely in municipal and commercial composting operations.  Note the BPI certified compostable program pertains to commercial operations, NOT home or smaller scale composting practices.
Steve Mojo
The BPI Compostable Logo is widely recognized by consumers, composters and municipal officials throughout North America as the preferred trademark to assure compostability in commercial facilities,” said Steven A. Mojo, BPI executive director. “As more consumer goods companies recognize the importance and value of composting, and the importance of responsible marketing claims about biodegradability and compostability, we anticipate even more growth in the years ahead. This new partnership with NSF will create a strong foundation to support this anticipated growth.
NSF International is an independent organization that writes standards and certifies products for food, water and consumer goods to minimize adverse health effects and protect the environment. Founded in 1944, NSF is committed to protecting public health and safety worldwide. NSF is a World Health Organization Collaborating Centre for Food and Water Safety and Indoor Environment.
According to  Tom Bruursema, NSF International Sustainability General Manager. “NSF Sustainability’s participation will help to expand the Certified Compostable program and provide consumers, institutional, commercial and government purchasers even more access to compostable plastic products.”
Yahoo News ran an excellent article NSF Selected to Administer BPI Compostable Program via PR Web, which was used for factual content in this post.  The BPI News Library post, NSF International to Administer BPI Certification Program, gives the BPI perspective of the new partnership.
Kudos to Steve Mojo for evolving a successful program into its next generation with ease and grace. Foresight is a valuable trait and our industry is fortunate Steve Mojo serves as one of its leaders.

USCC | KAB Partnership Ignites Industry Collaboration

On January 17 the U.S. Composting Council and Keep America Beautiful announced their national partnership dedicated to diverting food "waste" from landfills and into composting operations.  Under the agreement, KAB and USCC will share educational resources and seek to identify collaborative opportunities that benefit their constituencies and the general public by promoting awareness of the important role composting plays in waste reduction, improved soil structure, improved water quality and reduced soil erosion.

KAB has excellent consumer reach through their certified affiliate network of 587 local organizations where 60% are housed in some form of local government. Recycling plays an integral role with KAB affiliates as 30% of the directors are also the locale's recycling coordinator. KAB also forges partnerships with State Recycling Organizations and other community-based organizations to host collection events, and deliver resources and programming such as America Recycles Day that raise awareness and increase participation in recycling.

In Charlotte, the Sustainable Food Court Initiative Team works closely with Jake Wilson, Keep Mecklenburg Beautiful executive director, who is also a county recycling department employee.  With his extensive local connections, Jake is invaluable to building a strong Charlotte foundation for Zero Waste Zones and SFCI program implementation.  The ZWZ Blog posts, Fertile Charlotte Grounds and 2011 Planning = 2012 ACTION, give an overview of work begun in Charlotte and feature Jake's instrumental role.

Finished compost after final screening
The USCC is the trade association representing landfill alternative destination sites for organics, whether biosolids, yard trimmings, pre-consumer food residual generated in food production and post-consumer food residuals generated in the commercial and private sectors.  Until recently there were limited food composting permitted sites in the nation.  With the climate shift, a common awareness is coming forth recognizing food residuals as a valuable material, whether for compost, energy or both, that is wasted in landfills.

In September, Michael Virga joined the USCC as executive director and is leading the organization into a new era.  The ZWZ Blog post, USCC Prepares for New Era, gives the details of the leadership change.  A renewed educational focus is strengthened with the KAB partnership along with public outreach programs.  In the past the USCC influence was primarily in the commercial sector along with the corresponding governmental bodies regulating the industry.

The KAB | USCC partnership has the potential to take corporate and consumer awareness of composting, it's importance and availability, to new dimensions.  For more details on the partnership, read the KAB and USCC Announce Partnership press release.

Past & Current USCC Presidents
getting ready for annual conference
Since inception, Elemental Impact and the ZWZ worked closely with the USCC on developing organics collection programs within the foodservice industry.  The ZWZ Blog post series on the 2012 USCC Conference exemplifies the close relationship - USCC 20th  Annual Conference - STELLAR!, The Nitty Gritty on Composting Operations, and POWER Meeting @ USCC Conference.  In the past Holly Elmore, Ei founder & ZWZ director, served on the Keep Atlanta Beautiful Board of Directors.  

Collaboration is key to creating a renewed paradigm of disposal and recycling systems in our corporate and private communities.  It is thrilling to witness two powerful national organizations announce a formal partnership focused on education and programs designed for action.

End of NRA-USCC Intro Mtg
The USCC is in the courting stages of a formal relationship with the National Restaurant Association.  In December Ei orchestrated an introductory meeting of NRA and USCC leadership in Washington D.C.  The ZWZ Blog post, NRA Leads Industry Collaboration, gives a meeting recap.  As a validation of the relationship importance, the NRA stepped forward as an USCC conference sponsor and Chris Moyer, NRA ConServe Program Director, was an active conference participant and speaker.  

Ei | ZWZ is thrilled to see industry collaboration become a backbone within the sustainability community.  Stay tuned - the PHENOMENAL SHIFT is in process!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

USCC 20th Annual Conference - STELLAR!

The U.S. Composting Council celebrated their 20th anniversary with a stellar conference in Austin, TX January 17 -20, 2012.  With a change in command last fall, the conference was an excellent opportunity for the USCC to embark on a new era.  Incoming USCC executive director Mike Virga, along with his staff, orchestrated a fantastic four-day event, including pre and post- conference activities.  See the September ZWZ Blog post, USCC Prepares for New Era, for the announcement of Mike Virga joining the USCC.

End Product @ Hornsby
Bend Biosolid Plant
Pre-conference activities included a wide range of well-attended training, workshops and tours.  The ZWZ Blog post, The Nitty Gritty on Composting Operations, gives an overview of the three Austin-based compost facilities tour and the Ei FB album, 01-17-12 USCC Compost Facilities Tour, provides a pictorial recap of the impressive operations.

Robin Sweere @ Quest booth
In addition to strong educational sessions, the conference was a great way to learn about new technology, products and services available from industry vendors in the exhibit hall.    Sessions were scheduled with ample time to walk the trade show floor and mingle with long-time and new friends.

Doug Kunnemann
of NatureWorks @ POWER
Elemental Impact hosted a POWER - Perishable Organics Waste to Energy Recycling - session to an enthusiastic crowd.  The ZWZ Blog post, POWER Meeting @ USCC Conference, gives an overview of the program and the Ei FB album, 01-18-12 POWER @ USCC Conferenceprovides a pictorial recap.

The composting industry is a tight knit group and the conference was a time for colleagues from around the country (and world!) to catch-up.  Productive dinners filled with laughter were abundant during the conference.  

A fun, productive dinner
On Tuesday evening the conference provided an exhibitors reception with entertainment by Vocal Trash. The Biodegradable Products Institute hosted a popular zero waste reception on the final evening.

For a pictorial recap of the conference, visit the Ei FB album, 2012 USCC Conference - Austin, TX.  From the pictures, it is evident composting industry professionals understand fun and laughter are effective vehicles for accomplishing our important work.  

It was great to see everyone and Ei looks forward to the 2013 USCC conference in Orlando.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

POWER Meeting @ USCC Conference

The POWER presenting team
For the second consecutive year, a POWER - Perishable Organics Waste to Energy Recycling - session was included in the 2012 U.S. Composting Council Conference program.  In 2011 the POWER meeting was part of the pre-conference activities and in 2012 was a formal conference program session.

Deviating from the usual organics technology presentations, the January 18 POWER session focused on the National Restaurant Association's participation in educating the foodservice industry on diverting post-consumer organics from the landfill.  The NRA intends to provide educational support necessary to minimize contamination and ensure organics go to the highest good use, based on the community's economic parameters and available options.

Chris Moyer @ the podium
Chris Moyer, NRA ConServe Program Director, lead two segments of the POWER meeting with excellent skill in communicating the important message.  Note the NRA was an USCC Conference sponsor, validating their support of developing a strong organics destination network throughout the nation.

Brenda Platt with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance presented on the integral role foodservice packaging plays in creating viable organics collection programs in the foodservice industry.  As the Sustainable Food Court Initiative Co-Chair, Doug Kunnemann of NatureWorks gave a SFCI overview and Holly Elmore, Elemental Impact founder, gave an update on SFCI Pilots at the Atlanta Airport and soon-to-announced pilot in Charlotte, NC.

Brenda Platt presenting
Grounding the POWER session with the WHY our work is imperative, Wayne King - Past USCC President & ERTH Products owner - presented on the soil and water connection.  Our prominent leader, Scott Seydel - Ei chair & Global Green chair - began the POWER meeting with a synoposis of the NRA | Ei | Zero Waste Zones relationships and wrapped up the session with closing comments.

2012 holds promise of embarking on a new era in the disposition of post-consumer organics generated in the foodservice industry.  The potential is monumental to our air quality with the elimination of new methane generators in landfills and to our soil | water.  Nature created a miraculous microbial system that builds healthy, well-structured, aerated soil that retains and filters water by feeding the microbes nutrients within compost. Food residuals are a key nitrogen ingredient to the compost recipe.

Wayne Kin g
The Ei FB album, 01-18-12 POWER Meeting @ USCC Conference, includes pictures from the POWER meeting. For an overview of the USCC Composting Facilities Tour of local Austin operations, see the ZWZ Blog, The Nitty Gritty on Composting Operations. and the Ei FB album, 01-17-12 USCC Composting Facilities Tour, for the pictorial recap.  Session PPT presentations may be downloaded on the 2012 POWER Meetings page.

These are exciting and paramount times to participate in the shifting paradigms.  Thank you for joining us on the journey.

The Nitty Gritty on Composting Operations

Back view of in-vessel system

One of the offered pre-conference activities at the U.S. Composting Council's 20th annual conference held in Austin, TX was a tour of three composting facilities.  The tour bus was full with conference attendees eager to learn about the impressive Austin composting operations.

The first stop was at Lanier High School where an in-vessel composting unit is installed with a vermiculture system set to finish the in-vessel end product into valuable worm castings.  Although not in operation yet, Willis Poder, ACR Engineering, and Glenn McConkey, X-Act Systems, gave an excellent system overview.

Entrance to Hornsby Bend Facility
Next on the tour was the Hornsby Bend Biosolids Management Plant located on a 1200 acre site. Jody Slagle, Compost & Biosolid Reuse Manager, gave a thorough overview of the facility operations and accompanied the group on a detailed tour.  The facility wetlands are home to a wide array of birds and the public trails are a favorite destination for birdwatchers.  It was a pleasure to visit a well-run biosolids composting facility where the smell is of rich compost, rather than of its product's origin.

Windrows @ TDS
The final tour destination was Texas Disposal Systems - WOW is an appropriate description of their operations.  On the way to their on-site event facility for lunch along with a TDS presentation, the bus traveled through the exotic animal ranch. Originally, the ranch was a creative way to develop the required buffer zone for their landfill. TDS offers the gorgeous event facility free to non-profits to use for fund-raising events, one of the many ways TDS says "Thank You" to the community that supports their business.

TDS uses traditional aerobic, turned windrows for pre-consumer organic composting. For their post-consumer organics, TDS builds covered static piles to create higher temperature to break-down the longer decomposing items inherent within the stream.

Baled material awaiting sale
In addition to impressive composting operations, TDS operates extensive recycling programs. With plenty of space and the required permits, TDS is able to store recovered material during market lows to sell in market highs. Committed to integrity, the family-run business founded in 1977 is a valuable Austin asset.

For a detailed pictorial recap of the tour see the Ei FB album, 01-17-12 USCC Composting Facilities Tour.  It was a gorgeous day to be outside learning about how important the microbial community is to our human existence.

The tour was the perfect educational prelude to the next two days of USCC Conference sessions.  Kudos to Mike Virga, USCC executive director, for orchestrating an excellent conference with just over four months in his industry leadership role.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

2011 Planning = 2012 ACTION

With coffee in-hand,
Louis & Matt ready to travel
In early January, Louis Herrera, Hilex Poly National Sales Director, Matt Hupp, Simon Property Group Director of Waste & Recycling and Holly Elmore, Elemental Impact Founder, headed to Charlotte for a two-day road trip.  With Simon the nation's largest mall operator and Hilex Poly the world's largest plastic bag manufacturer, the trip was an opportunity to take the many 2011 conversations and meetings into action steps.

Initial seeds for the January Charlotte trip were planted in June when Matt visited Atlanta for a day filled with meetings, including one with Louis.  See the ZWZ Blog post, Simon Property Group Embarks on Zero Waste Initiatives, for details of the June meetings.  A few weeks later Louis and Holly traveled to Simon's hometown, Indianapolis, for mall tours along with a day trip to Hilex Poly's plastic film-only dedicated recycling plant in N. Vernon, IN  See the ZWZ Blog post, Getting a Handle on Plastic Film Recycling, for an overview of the plant tour and the Ei FB album, 07-01-11 Hilex Poly Tour in Mt. Vernon, IN, for the pictorial recount of the educational day.

Daniel Rickenmann, Jake, Josh &
Doug during the Oct Charlotte visit
An active Sustainable Food Court Initiative Team Member, Simon is interested in one of their The Mills properties serving as a SFCI Mall Pilot. Concord Mills, located in the Charlotte metro area, is a prime property as the food court concessions are operated by fellow SFCI Team Member HMSHost.  

In October, Holly, Doug Kunnemann, NatureWorks Business Segment Director & SFCI Co-Chair, and Joshua Barone, HMSHost Sr. Manager, Business Analysis, visited Charlotte to tour Concord Mills and learn about local recycling infrastructure and support.  The ZWZ Blog post, Fertile Charlotte Grounds, details the trip highlights and the Ei FB album, 10-19-11 Charlotte Visit, gives the pictorial recap.

Jake Wilson, Keep Mecklenburg Beautiful Executive Director, was integral to the relationships forged during the October visit and Jake joined the group for dinner and some of the meetings during the January visit.

Action points for the January trip included starting a plastic film recycling pilot at Simon's two Charlotte malls and back-of-the-house prep food scrap collection for composting at Concord Mills.  With the foundation laid in 2011, the trip was a big success with many follow-up points already in motion.

plastic film drop-off area for tenants
Simon's SouthPark Mall was the first stop on the trip.  The visiting group was thrilled to learn mall tenants have the option to separate plastic film for recycling, a big step already in-process for the pilot!  

At both malls the loading docks, waste collection areas and tunnels | hallways supporting the retail operations were neat, well-organized and designed for efficiency, evidence of Simon's leadership role in the mall industry.  HMSHost is a leader in the contracted foodservice industry with a strong sustainability commitment.  The ZWZ Blog, Sustainability = SHARING, gives an overview of HMSHost's track record and future plans.  One of Ei's fortes is teaming industry leaders on projects to maximize impact and minimize start-up time.

The Ei FB albums, DAY 1 Charlotte Trip and DAY 2 Charlotte Trip, give the pictorial recap of the trip and shows how much fun the group has working together.

the group finishing a great dinner
The enthusiasm of HMSHost food court and Simon mall management for the pilots was inspiring.  With "Can Do" attitudes by the ones responsible for execution, the pilots are staged for success. Challenges encountered are viewed as opportunities to get creative and figure out the logistics necessary to sell former "trash" as valuable material.

Stay tuned for more tales from the exciting journey.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Atlanta Airport SFCI Pilot ACTION

How incredible to witness a project nurtured over the past year move into ACTION mode!  The Sustainable Food Court Initiative's first Pilot at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the busiest in the world, is completing initial action steps.

A first task was an organics collection program test-run on Concourse T where SFCI Team Member HMSHost has the concessionaire's contract.  The main test-run purpose was to understand logistical challenges inherent within airport operations and regulations prior to implementing a larger-scale collection program. With the two-month test-run complete in mid January, the SFCI Team will meet with airport management to summarize the lessons learned and collection stats.

baled milk jugs @ ATL Airport
Indicative of their sustainability commitment, HMSHost created a recycling program for the spent milk jugs generated at the Airport Starbuck's locations.  The average 2,600 milk jugs used per week are aggregated to one location where an Orwak compactor|baler resides. By selling the compacted, baled milk jugs along with the plastic syrup bottles, to a local MRF (materials recovery facility), revenue offsets the program cost.

According HMSHost manager Rick Moore, there are minimal landfill-destined items remaining in the airport Starbuck's operations, especially at those stores where the coffee grinds are sent to compost.

The first week of January, Atlanta City Council approved the contracts awarded under the Atlanta Airport Concessionaire Request for Proposal process begun in the spring, 2011.  See the ZWZ Blog post, Atlanta Airport Makes Bold Sustainable Statement, for the contract provision requiring food vendors to use compostable serviceware and consumer-facing packaging and source-separate organics for composting collection.

SFCI ATL Pilot Action Team meeting in Jan 2012
With the concessionaire contracts approved, the SFCI Pilot can move from test-runs into providing a strong support network assisting the concessionaires meeting the contract provisions and the airport determining an organics destination site that makes solid business and environmental sense.

On January 11 the NRA Daily featured the NRA News Hub post, Sustainability takes off at Atlanta Airport, as the lead article in the publication circulated to a mega subscriber list of owners, managers and other industry stakeholders.   

The article is an excellent recap of the Atlanta's Airport's concessionaire contracts tremendous impact on foodservice packaging and operating practices.  Inherent in the copy is the strong support the National Restaurant Association provides operators as the industry evolves and sustainable best practices become standard operating practices .  Chris Moyer, NRA ConServe Program Mnager, serves as the SFCI Co-Chair and gives insightful quotes about the pilot along with the NRA's important role.  

With the ACTION in its early stages, stay tuned for many exciting tales from the journey.

A POWERFUL Cyberspace Network

ZWZ Blog topped 30,000 page views!!!  

On January 10, a mere 49 days after reaching 25,000 views, the ZWZ Blog hit the major 30,000 milestone.  The journey from 20,000 to 25,000 views took 65 days - an impressive readership escalation over the last months.

A 2012 Elemental Impact focus is building a powerful cyberspace network for communicating the important work in progress by those committed to sustainable corporate, community and personal environments.  The ZWZ Blog shares zero waste success stories and emerging programs devoted to diverting material from landfills. The IMPACT Blog communicates the programs and tales in the remaining sustainability sectors with an emphasis on social responsibility and health impact|economics.

With the ZWZ Blog over 30,000 page views and the IMPACT Blog closing in on 15,000 page views, a solid foundation is established for the cyberspace network.  Your support will assist in taking the network to amazing dimensions where ALL benefit.

Here are a few action points you can take NOW:
  • Follow the blogs, which may done from the sidebar - note post alerts go to Google Reader
  • "Like" the Ei FB Page
  • "Follow" the Ei LinkedIn Page
  • "Follow" Ei on Twitter
  • Share ZWZ | IMPACT Blog posts on your networks
  • Participate in the network by creating dialogue via comments on the blog, FB and LinkedIn posts.
  • Share your success stories with Holly Elmore, Ei founder, for potential future posts
The Earth is in the midst of paradigm shifts and it is an incredible time to be alive.  Be a part of the creating the new paradigm; take ACTION however works for you.

Thank you for your support and participation - we are on a phenomenal collective journey where collaboration is key.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Panthers Winning Recycling Season

The Carolina Panthers hit a winning streak in their third season of game day tailgating recycling.  During the 2011 season, Panther fans separated 31.31 tons (62,620 pounds) of bottles, cans and cardboard into yellow plastic recycling bags before entering the stadium.

City of Charlotte staff collects the bags placed by fans on the parking lot curbs and delivers them to Mecklenburg County's Material Recovery Facility (MRF) where the contents are processed for recycling.  In addition, the Panthers separated 50.66 tons of plastic cans and bottles inside the stadium for delivery to the MRF.

Jake handing out recycling bags
How does a successful program like the Panther Tailgating Recycling get started? Collaboration among government, non-profit and for-profit organizations is the program backbone. A visionary, who also serves as a facilitator, provides the driving force to create the program. Jake Wilson, Keep Mecklenburg Beautiful Executive Director, is the visionary who pulled together an impressive team committed to a common goal.  

To learn more about Jake, read the IMPACT Blog post, A Man of Controversy, A Man of Action, where Jake is honored as the February, 2011 IMPACTOR.  The Panther's tailgate recycling program is only one of the many amazing accomplishments KMB has achieved under Jake's reign.

Les Epperson and his City of Charlotte Solid Waste Team provide the collection services for delivery to the county owned MRF.  It is impressive to witness city and county government leaders teaming together for a common goal where all benefit, especially the community.

Darlene Heater, Charlotte CENTER CITY
with Les Epperson, City of Charlotte
Charlotte CENTER CITY Partners served in a strong supporting role by creating the necessary synergy among  various organizations for success.  Forming a parking lot consortium of the six main parking lot owners in the four blocks surrounding the stadium was a key CCCP contribution.  Hands on Charlotte agreed to recruit and coordinate the 8 - 15 volunteers for each game.  Kerry McCray, HOC Project Leader & Volunteer, recruited, educated and inspired volunteers each game day.

As the program's main sponsor Bojangles provides the yellow recycling bags along with $50 in gift certificates per game.  A $25 certificate goes to the "Best Tailgater" and another to the "Best Parking Lot Attendant."  A little competition goes a long way in increasing recycling rates.  At the end of the season, Bojangles caters a "Thank You Luncheon" at the stadium for those who contributed to the program success.

A team player, the Panthers promote the recycling program in season ticket holder communication, game promotion flyers and in their media outlets.  Educated fans now ask for their yellow recycling bags if not given one upon paying their parking fee.

According to Jake, the recycling program has minimal contamination, 3 -4 % at the most.  Food waste in the bags is nominal and there are occasional napkins.  Red polystyrene tailgating cups are the biggest contaminant.  Hmmmm.... maybe a cup manufacturer would sponsor a recyclable cup for the program's fourth season!  

The yellow bags are baled at the MRF along with other plastic film for recycling.
Bank of America Stadium where the Panthers
play and fans tailgate
To maximize recycling outside the stadium, the City places 75 recycling bins close to the stadium entrance. Fans are not permitted to bring beverages into the stadium and the bins fill with containers from the last sip before entering the facility.

One of the surprising program snafus are what Jake calls "Aluminum Pirates" who steal the bags filled mainly with cans.  Although the stolen material most likely ends up in the recycling stream, the lost material hurts the program metrics.  Also, the aluminum is a valuable revenue source for the county-run MRF.

The Panther Tailgate Recycling Program is indicative of the synergies alive within Charlotte's corporate, non-profit and government sectors who are ready to bring sustainable practices to the community.

In early 2012  the Sustainable Food Court Initiative intends to announce a mall pilot in Charlotte.  See the ZWZ Blog post, Fertile Charlotte Grounds, for a recap of the SFCI Team October Charlotte visit.  Jake was instrumental to a successful visit and Elemental Impact is excited to know our work with Jake is just beginning.

Stay tuned as seeds are germinating in fertile Charlotte grounds for thrilling sustainable tales!