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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Atlanta Celebrates Sustainability Leadership

Matt McLaughlin and
Richard Eidlin 

On February 23, 2012 the Metro Atlanta Chamber hosted a reception honoring Atlanta's sustainability leadership at their impressive offices on the edge of Olympic Centennial Park.  The view from the reception area was spectacular.

As an event sponsor, the American Sustainable BusinessCouncil orchestrated the successful event along with assistance from the Chamber and other sponsors. After a warm welcome by Jorge Fernandez, Metro Chamber VP Global Commerce, Richard Eidlin, ASBC Director - Campaigns & Business Engagements, served as the program Master of Ceremonies. 

Suzanne Burnes, James Marlowe and
Peter Marte enjoying reception
Speakers ranged from solar power pioneer Peter Marte of Hannah Solar Power to Suzanne Burnes, Sustainable Atlanta Executive Director, to Robert Newcomer, Chair of the Green Chamber of the South, an event sponsor.  Frank Knapp of the SC SmallBusiness Chamber of Commerce gave a regional perspective of sustainability's vital role in economic growth and stability.  Emphasizing their focus on refurbishing electronics for reuse, Matt McLaughlin represented event sponsor Electronic Recyclers International.

Richard introduced Elemental Impact founder Holly Elmore as "the most colorful was saved for last."  Holly's podium time was dedicated to Atlanta's role in building templates for sustainable operating practices to implement across the nation and globe. First with the Zero Waste Zones launched in 2009 followed by the Sustainable Food Court Initiative Pilot at the Atlanta Airport, Atlanta takes a pronounced leadership role in mobilizing the corporate community into sustainable ACTION.  

Holly @ the podium
An overview was given of the monumental compostable packaging provision included in the airport concession contracts awarded in early January.  See the ZWA Blog post, Atlanta Airport Makes Bold Sustainable Statement, for details on the contract provision. 

The Ei FB album, 02-23-12 Atlanta Sustainability Reception, gives the pictorial recap of the event. 

With serendipity at play, the ZWZ Two-Year Anniversary was exactly one year earlier across Centennial Park at The World of Coca-Cola.  Many of the press conference attendees were at the Metro Chamber event.  The ZWA Blog post, ZWZ Garners National Support, gives an overview of the press conference.

It was a lovely evening and celebration of Atlanta's pioneering spirit.

Monday, February 27, 2012

A Quick & Powerful Charlotte Visit

spontaneous side  meetings at a
presentation end says:  EFFECTIVE!
Efficient and Effective was the theme for the February, 2012 Charlotte excursion.  Lorraine White owner of M-Pass, an Ei Partner, joined Ei founder Holly Elmore for the whirlwind visit. In less than 24 hours ( 23 3/4 hours to be exact), the dynamic duo had a excellent presentation meeting with Wastequip, an Ei Supporter, on their new aerated organics collection bins followed by a lovely dinner.  The following day included two tours along with a luncheon where Holly was the key presenter.

Our Mecklenburg County pals, Jake Wilson and Trey Miller, joined dinner along with Jim Lanier of Earth Farm Organics and Robin Turner of O'Leary Group.  Intertwined within the laughter, important business foundations were laid.

The office recycling
bins @ UNC Charlotte
The following day Holly was the featured presenter at a CAUSE - Colleges and Universities Sustaining the Environment - luncheon meeting hosted by UNC Charlotte. After lunch the group took a campus tour to learn about the impressive systems in place at the university.  At one cafeteria, UNC Charlotte has a food pulper that reduces food waste volume by around 80%, thus reducing the number of per pull charges along with tipping fees.

UNC Charlotte has two earth bins, a labor intensive in-vessel composting system purchased with grants over a decade ago.  Although inefficient, the earth bins are effective.  It is impressive to witness UNC Charlotte's long standing environmental commitment.

Past prime bell peppers
destined for a yummy worn meal
After a farewell to new friends, the duo traveled south to the Charlotte Foster Caviness distribution center. It was a pure treat to learn about their developing vermi-composting system for produce beyond its prime and not fit for sale.

Visit the Ei FB album, 02-12 Charlotte Visit, for a pictorial recap of the trip, complete with photos of those red beauties who are the true workhorses in vermi-composting operations.

The Charlotte bonds are vibrant and ACTION is around the corner.  Stay tuned!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

ZWZ Renewal Bonanza

An added benefit of a program birthday is an abundance of participant renewal anniversary dates. Thanks to Elemental Impact Program Director Susan Montgomery's, diligent reminder efforts, ZWZ Participants validated the program's importance with their renewals.  The ZWA Blog post, ZWZ Turns Three!, gives the details of the three year anniversary.

ZWZ Participants are active in sharing the zero waste message. In true leadership spirit, these heroes open their back-of-the-doors to their fellow operators, often competitors, to show how easy and cost-effective organics collection is to implement into operations.

The SCHA ZWZ group @
Buckhead Diner
Buckhead Life Group renewed their five participating restaurants: Atlanta Fish Market, Buckhead Diner, Chops Lobster Bar, KYMA and NAVA.  During the SC Hospitality Association's first Atlanta ZWZ tour, the Buckhead Diner chef and manager hosted the group for an intensive kitchen and collection tour.  The ZWA Blog post, ATL Zero Waste Team Hosts SC Hospitality Tour, gives an overview of the two-day tour.

Steve Simon & Chef Micah
With Fifth Group Restaurants' renewal came the addition of two new restaurants for a total of six ZWZ Participants:  Alma CocinaBold American Events, Ecco, El Taco, La Tavola, South City Kitchen Midtown and soon to open Lure. Additionally, HMSHost will include Ecco and El Taco concepts under their ZWZ Participation status in their recently awarded Atlanta Airport International Concourse concessions contract. 

Fifth Group partner Steve Simon was a gracious host of a kitchen and rooftop garden tour at Ecco on the first day of the August SCHA ZWZ tour. The day concluded with a scrumptious dinner prepared by Ecco's Chef Micah and his staff.

EPA leading discussions @
Sheraton Atlanta Hotel
The Sheraton Atlanta Hotel shared their organics collection experience during the second SCHA ZWZ tour in November and donated a conference room for a day of meetings with the U.S. EPA Region IV, Tim Trefzer with the GA World Congress Center and others.  For a tour overview demonstrating the ZWZ leadership spirit. see the ZWA Blog post, An Encore ZWZ Performance.

Carole Parks Catering, LowCountry Barbecue, Philips Arena and The Westminster Schools gave a thumbs up to ZWZ participation with their program renewals. 

Thank you to the Atlanta ZWZ Participants for your pioneering spirit and loyalty to the program that made national headlines with it's launch three years ago. Stay tuned as the ZWZ evolve into their next dimension of impact - details are coming soon! 

Documentation Maximizes Impact

Elemental Impact is committed to creating business operating practices entrenched in respect to the environment, humanity and profitability.  An integral component to successful practices is collective effort and working together with community spirit where all benefit.  Ei recruits pioneers eager to enter the frontier and determine how to implement the evolved practices into operations, with ease and financial stability.  

Affairs to Remember
Chef Ahmad  Nourzad
Beginning with the Zero Waste Zones program, Ei's initial focus is on diversion of assets from landfills.  The Founding ZWZ Participants are the heroes who met the Back-of-the-House organics collection challenge and developed easy to implement procedures for the kitchen and wait staff.  It took a few stumbles before the EASY testimonies came forth.  Visit the ZWZ Testimonial page for an array of ZWZ Participant quotes on how the program makes good business sense while respecting environmental concerns.

With the Sustainable Food Court Initiative Pilots, pioneers are working through the Front-of-the House recycling challenges where the consumer is responsible for material disposal.  A common refrain during SFCI Team meetings is "If it was easy, it would already be done."  

Food courts by their nature are filled with complex obstacles for zero waste practices, ranging from legal constraints in landlord | tenant and franchiser | franchisee agreements to operators who do not control their waste disposition to third party items brought to the food court.  It takes innovative, dedicated industry leaders to work through the challenges and create solutions.

Ei's work is monumental.  To maximize impact, documentation of the template creation process is essential so others may modify it to complement their unique circumstances.  A clear narrative, in pictures and words, is intertwined within Ei's communication tools.  For documentation of the Ei journey, visit these on-line tools:
  • Milestone Page - details in concise narrative major events by month in reverse chronological order.  Related blog post links are included where appropriate.
  • Zero Waste in ACTION Blog - documents the ZWZ, SFCI and zero waste process and success stories along with related articles.
  • IMPACT Blog - documents Ei work and influence in areas other than zero waste initiatives.
  • Ei Photo Gallery - the latest addition to the documentation repertoire. Thanks to Elisabeth Marchal's, Ei Adminstrator, diligent efforts Ei's vast photo album collection may now be viewed directly on the site.
  • Ei FB Page - each blog post is published on the Ei FB page along with related links to Ei Partners, Ei Strategic Allies, Ei Advisory Council and ZWZ Participants articles and activities.
  • Ei FB Albums - whenever possible Ei action is documented with pictures and organized into albums including thorough descriptions.  Photos are downloadable from the albums and available for third-party use, as long as photo credit is given.
  • ZWZ Website - the site contains a wealth of information and documentation on the program and zero waste practices.
Within the documentation is the clear message:  Collaboration is Key to Success. Thank you to those who contribute their resources, time and expertise to Ei's important work. Contact Ei Founder Holly Elmore if interested in joining the team paving the pathway to a new paradigm.

Stay tuned as the above tools continue the documentation trail of our important and necessary journey.

New Name | Powerful, Broader Readership

When the it launched in 2009 at the suggestion of Sharon Goldmacher of Communications 21, the Zero Waste Zones Blog intent was to document the ZWZ program journey.  Over the years the content expanded beyond specific ZWZ stories to include articles dedicated to overall zero waste initiatives

A theme developed as the blog matured:  SUCCESS - document the positive within a challenging and emerging industry focus.  As the corporate community is focusing on its disposition methods and quantities,  success tales embracing the three "Rs" - Reduce, Reuse, Recycle - are abundant.

In addition to success stories, the blog tracks the amazing progress of the Sustainable Food Court Initiative, an Elemental Impact Task Force in partnership with the National Restaurant Association.  The  post, SFCI Quarterly Update, gives the most recent recap of SFCI activities.

In February the blog name was shifted to Zero Waste in ACTION to complement the content and Ei's tagline, Sustainability in Action.

The ZWA Blog readership is growing into a strong base, with an international following. Beginning in late 2011 posts are published on Ei's FB page and on appropriate LinkedIn Group pages.  Wow, page views immediately escalated at an impressive rate. Here are the stats:

  • 20,000 to 25,000 page views - 65 days
  • 25,000 to 30,000 page views - 49 days
  • 30,000 to 35,000 page views - 42 days

Along with increased readership, a powerful cyberspace network is developing to connect those around the globe committed to diverting valuable assets from landfills.

To keep current on ZWA Blog posts, "like" the Ei FB page as every post, along with other pertinent links and info, are published on the page.

Thank you for your support in building an important communication tool.  Remember the journey is just beginning - Stay Tuned!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

ZWZ Turns Three!

Amazing, incredible to realize the monumental press conference launching the Zero Waste Zones program was three years ago on February 10!  In some ways it seems like another lifetime and in other facets preparing for the event feels like only yesterday.  These emotions must be similar to the revelations a parent experiences as their child grows up and enters adulthood.

As ZWZ Blog followers know, I rarely write in first person - only when the topic is close to the heart.  Celebrating the ZWZ Third Birthday is close to my heart.

Sharon & the C21 team
photo courtesy of Leonardo Ruscitto
Preparing for this post, I went back to the third ZWZ Blog post, ZWZ ~ Downtown Atlanta is Announced to the Media, and realized how the blog, along with my writing confidence, developed in tandem with the program.  

A big THANK YOU to Sharon Goldmacher of Communications 21 for telling me in early 2009 it was important to start a blog - the ZWZ Blog is closing on 35,000 page views!  Sharon said YES twice to providing pro-bono public relations services for the ZWZ launch press conference and again for the ZWZ Two-Year Press Conference on February 23, 2011. Another big THANK YOU to Sharon and her c21 team.

A common theme in speaking engagements is "Collaboration is Key."  A year ago collaboration took on a new dimension for Elemental Impact and the ZWZ program when Scott DeFife, National Restaurant Association Sr. EVP Government & Public Affairs, announced the national collaboration between the NRA and Ei | ZWZ.  From the ZWZ Blog post, ZWZ Garners National Support, here is the official statement issued:
Scott @ ZWZ press conference
photo courtesy of  Leonardo Ruscitto
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.
Over the past year the NRA relationship has grown stronger and a ZWZ national expansion plan is in process with pending announcements later this year.  With the expanded partnership, the ZWZ will benefit from the NRA ConServe Metrics Collection Tool modified to include ZWZ Criteria.

 Charlotte Airport ZWZ visit
In 2011 the ZWZ National Zone was launched with HMSHost concession operations at the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport and the Tampa International Airport.  Organizations throughout the nation may join the ZWZ- National Zone and receive program benefits, mainly the NRA Metrics Collection Tool.  The ZWZ Blog post, It's Official:  ZWZ is National!, gives the details.

Susan Montgomery joined the Ei Team as ZWZ Program Director in April, 2011.  Using her excellent organizational skills, Susan created documents and materials necessary for the Atlanta ZWZ program to replicate in other communities.  Susan built on the fantastic work accomplished in 2010 by Hadley Laughlin, then ZWZ Program Director.

Strong ZWZ foundations are laid in Charlotte and South Carolina - the ZWZ Blog post, 2011 Planning = 2012 ACTION, gives a Charlotte update and A ZWZ Encore Performance gives an overview of the second SC Atlanta ZWZ November tour.

Tampa reunion with Dave (on rt)
With ZWZ-Buckhead Champion Dave Rossman relocating to the Sheraton Suites Tampa Airport, there is strong ZWZ potential in the Tampa Bay area.  The Tampa Airport is already a ZWZ-National Zone Participant! See the ZWZ Blog post, An Atlanta Icon Resurfaces in Tampa, for the fun reunion.

In September, the Zero Waste Zones website went live!  It was a tremendous undertaking to intertwine between the daily tasks of running the program.   Collaborative effort was at its best - a big THANK YOU to webmaster Mark Anderson of LivePage Cafe, graphic design whiz Lee Thompson of Thompson Creative, Kelly Hornbuckle for her orchestration, Roshni Patel for her administrative support and Susan Montgomery for her excellent editorial proofing skills.

Like a proud parent, it is huge to witness the ZWZ program come forth from a passionate idea to a well respected program who made her national debut.  The stage is set:  the ZWZ has a life of her own and her fourth year is destined for tremendous national impact.  Thank you to everyone for your support, contributions and especially your faith in the ZWZ and me.  I am most grateful.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

SFCI Quarterly Update

On Monday, February 13 the Sustainable Food Court Initiative Team hosted the first quarterly update call open to interested parties. Chris Moyer, National Restaurant Association ConServe Program Manager and SFCI Co-Chair, lead the update call and Elemental Impact founder Holly Elmore provided the welcome along with several project deeper dives 

With the first SFCI Pilot at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in ACTION mode, there were detailed updates on the overall pilot team progress along with subcommittee reports.  For a pilot overview, visit the ZWZ Blog post, Atlanta Airport SFCI Pilot ACTION.

The Baseline & Metrics Subcommittee is complete with its baseline analysis and is in a holding pattern.  Once the Airport is ready to a launch the full-scale organics collection program, with SFCI support, metrics standards and tools will be established.  

ATL SFCI Action team mtg 
To assist airport food vendors meet the new concessionaire contract packaging provision, the Foodservice Packaging subcommittee is in the final stages of issuing an information packet designed to educate operators on HOW to meet the packaging provision.  The ZWZ Blog post, Atlanta Airport Makes Bold Statement, gives the details of the ground-breaking contract provision.

Diligent work is in progress at a Charlotte Simon mall pilot project where the food court operations are contracted with HMSHost.  A formal pilot announcement is forthcoming when action is in-place.  The ZWZ Blog post, 2011 Planning = 2012 ACTION, details the tremendous collaborative effort necessary for SFCI Pilot programs. 

Baled milk jugs ready for sale
SFCI impact goes well beyond food courts.  See the Ei FB Album, SFCI Airport Milk Jug Recycling, for the impressive Atlanta program that inspired cost-saving recycling programs at the Tampa Airport.  Future blog posts will capture the essence of the Tampa Airport HMSHost team's sustainability enthusiasm.  Thank you HMSHost for your industry leadership role.  It is an honor to work with a company and individuals willing to commit the time and resources necessary to create new operating practices.

Plastic beginning the journey
to its next life
Using the SFCI structural foundation. Simon malls is in exploration with Hilex Poly to develop comprehensive plastic film recycling programs.  The ZWZ Blog post, Getting a Handle on Plastic Recycling, gives details on building the base components necessary for the programs.

Collaboration is key to success.  The SFCI Team includes active members from trade associations, non-profits, property owners|managers, foodservice operators and industry suppliers working together to create the pathways that make strong business sense for all concerned.  Our work is important and we invite those who choose to contribute valuable resources,including expertise, time and energy, to join the Team.  Contact Holly for additional information.

For detailed SFCI Call Notes, visit the the SFCI Qtrly Update page on the Ei site. Contact Elisabeth to receive future SFCI updates.

We are on a phenomenal journey into uncharted territory - stay tuned for tales from the adventure! 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Reduce First, Donate Second and Compost Third

image from   
The Zero Waste Zones promote the big three "R's": Reduce, ReUse | RePurpose and Recycle. As a general rule, ZWZ Participants shift purchasing practices once a focus develops on wasted items sent to the landfill or recycling and REDUCE their consumption, including waste.

With kitchen food waste, the reduction catalyst is often an observant chef who retrains staff to more effectively prep food items. A simple yet common example is cutting the lettuce closer to the core to utilize the entire head, leaving only bitter or inedible parts for compost collection.

When he reviewed their food waste stats provided by Greenco Environmental, the permitted composting facility serving the Atlanta market, Steve Simon - Fifth Group Restaurants partner & ZWZ Participant- found  his lowest grossing restaurant had the  highest food waste volume.  With superior food quality at the restaurant, Steve realized portions were larger than their customers' appetite.  By focusing on what and how much is going to recycling or landfill, foodservice operators modify practices to improve their bottom line.

In his ground-breaking book, American Wasteland - How America Throws Away Nearly Half of It's Food (and what we can do about it), Jonathan Bloom opened our nation's eyes to the staggering amount of food going to landfills, while millions go to bed hungry.  With open eyes it is time to take action to stop the waste at every level of production and consumption from the farm, to distribution, retail - restaurants | foodservice, grocery stores and markets, and in our homes.

The ZWZ Criteria sets the use hierarchy of excess commercial food generated: 1> donate unsalable food that meets the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act and 2> separate remaining food waste for composting collection.  

Perry Kranias of HMSHost - Tampa
with food ready for donation
Last week the Tampa Bay Times article, Leftovers from Tampa International Airport serve new purposes, honors HMSHost - the Tampa International Airport concessionaire & ZWZ Participant - for creating a program that donates delicious food no longer meeting their high standards to a local children's program during the week.  On the weekend the food is donated to area homeless folks.  For many of the children the HMSHost late afternoon meals serve as a dinner they were destined to miss.

Since September, 2010  HMSHost - Tampa Airport recovered the equivalent of 167,000 meals and spurred similar programs in 13 other airports.  HMSHost vendors typically produce 10 to 15 percent more foods than they expect to sell. Travelers appreciate fresh prepackaged foods, which is why HMSHost "grab and go meals" are never older than 24 hours. Thanks to the Tampa HMSHost folks, the overage produced via a quality and abundant selection commitment serve as delicious, nutritious meals for those less fortunate at an increasing number of airports.

At the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport - a ZWZ Participant and Sustainable Food Court Initiative Pilot, HMSHost delivers it's excess donatable food to the airport's USO operations for soldiers to enjoy. A donation program to local programs for children and those less fortunate is in the exploratory phase.  At the busiest airport in the world for 14 consecutive years, there are additional challenges at play to ensure secure travel.

Dana Gunders
In her recent blog post, A Look at the $175 in your compost,  Dana Gunders with the National Resources Defense Council gives an excellent recap of the astounding truth inherent within the wasted food in our nation.  With a predominant consumer focus, the blog post is a must read for those committed to walking the talk in their personal lives.  

In December, 2011 the NRDC issued a concise, well-written two-page document, Your scraps add up, reducing food waste can save money and resources. that details the facts in easy to understand graphs, lists simple behavioral changes that make a big difference, and includes ample live links to resources for those who choose to dig deeper.   

uneaten, served food going to compost
When they address world hunger, our global leaders must address the food waste inherent within the current system before an effective solution is created.  Eliminating the waste is the first priority and diverting edible, wasted food to hungry bellies is foundational to system development.  An entirely revamped agricultural system, urban & rural, will produce food where the animals, plants and soil are treated with immense integrity and the nutritious food produced is equally available to all population sectors.  Such a system seems utopian in current energy yet is our future reality.

ZWZ plays a vital role in the food system evolution.  The participant base consists of the pioneers ready, willing and enthusiastic to create industry practices seeped with integrity and respect for our natural resources, including plants, animals, soil and humanity.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

RecycleMania Empowers Future Leaders

Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming @ podium
Photo by Susan Montgomery
The Atlanta University Center* kicked-off their 2012 RecycleMania competition to impressive fanfare on Saturday, February 04. Gwendolyn Keyes Fleming, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Region 4 Regional Administrator , served as keynote speaker during the formal program and was joined at the podium by executives from each AUC organization.  

Gwendolyn with Art Frazier of Spelman
Photo by Susan Montgomery
With recycling serving as the catalyst for collaborative efforts around environmental concerns at the historic AUC, RecycleMania is also an expression of the universities' commitment to mentoring future leaders. 

How inspiring to witness Atlanta's African American community leaders commit personal weekend time to voice their support to our youth and the environment!

Jessica in front of recycling compactor
Photo by Susan Montgomery
Friendly competition intertwines with collaborative spirit as the AUC members compete with each other as well as one within the overall competition.  After the Saturday kick-off, the eight-week competition among North American universities and colleges culminates in awards ranging from largest total recyclables collected to least amount of waste per capita.  In 2011 RecycleMania, 630 institutions entered the competition enveloping 7.5 million students & staff and resulting in 91 million pounds of material recovered.

RecyceMania is a 501(c)3 non-profit governed by a steering committee of sustainability professionals from supporting universities.  Program management is provided by Keep America Beautiful.  Program support is provided by the EPA's  WasteWise program and the College & University Recycling Coalition.

Budding Leaders Bonding
Photo by Susan Montgomery
Expressing Elemental Impact's support, Susan Montgomery, Ei Program Director, attended the kick-off event with Jessica, her daughter and budding environmental leader.  With like energy attraction at work, Jessica found new friends at the event who shared her passion for visioning a world where we live, work and play together in harmony with our environment. 

The AUC RecycleMania event exemplified the power inherent within collaborative effort directed at mentoring our youth to develop future leaders based in integrity within environmental as well as economic concerns.  Thank you to the  AUC leaders who took the time to take vision into reality.

*AUC Definition per their website: The Atlanta University Center is a non-profit organization created to provide services and programs to its member institutions. These institutions; Clark Atlanta University, Morehouse College, Morehouse School of Medicine, and Spelman College share a common mission as members of the Consortium to provide quality education for African Americans and other students of diversity.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Bottle Caps - ON or OFF?????

In a recent article,  Consumers should leave the cap on according to recycling industry, Resource & Recycle reports that the Closure and Container Manufacturers Association and the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers are asking consumers to leave "Caps On" when consumers recycle their bottles.

Confusion and inconsistency are a HUGE dilemma in the recycling world and it seems these two organizations are providing more muddle to muddy waters.  First, consumers are educated bottle caps are made of a different type of plastic, so please take off the cap to increase the the value of the PET or other plastic bottles.  Many consumers do their best best to comply.

bottle cap made of  mixed,
unmarked palstic
Now two industry groups are coming forth with a confusing message to consumers that separated bottle caps contain valuable material, so "please keep the caps ON, thank you".

YIKES!  Where is recycling industry integrity with this consumer request?  If there was a miraculous revelation to cap recycling, then setting a new standard in the industry is exciting.  Yet, no revelation seems in sight.  

Gimme 5 Collection Bin
As documented on the Gimme 5 site, Preserve explicitly asks for only caps clearly marked as #5 plastic.  The site explains how unmarked caps many times contain various plastic grades and are contaminants to their production process. The ZWZ Blog post, Gimme 5 Recycling @ Whole Foods, gives details of the program and their informative site.

A simple fact is bottle caps are made of inconsistent, unmarked plastic and do not have distinctive value in the recycling stream. When manufacturers agree upon consistent cap production, there will be a valuable market for caps as long as plastic density is easily determined.

FRUSTRATION:  Why would two industry associations choose to create further consumer confusion prior to industry resolution of effective cap recycling?

Beyond recycling integrity, another key factor emerges:  SAFETY! While touring a MRF - material recovery facility - Chris Moyer, National Restaurant Association ConServe Program Director, personally experienced the safety hazard inherent with "CAP ON" requests.  During the compaction process, a lid exploded from the bottle and nearly imploded into Chris' knee. 

The incident was an "eye opener" for those on the MRF tour.  Recycling concerns must integrate safety at the core of the program and  a "CAP ON" bottle may result in harm during the compaction | baling process.

Consistent consumer education is paramount to creating clean recycling streams. CLEAN, free of contaminants, collection is critical to recycling programs that make good business sense where ALL benefit.  

If you agree with the post's message please contact Resource Recycling, the Closure and Container Manufacturers Association and the Association of Postconsumer Plastic Recyclers about their request to keep the "CAPS ON."  Thank you for expressing your active voice.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Growing Pains in Recycling Programs

recycling bins w/o trash
cans nearby or any signage
Many well-intended recycling efforts result in costly trips to landfills due to unnecessary contamination.  Most individuals are happy to place their recyclable material into appropriate bins yet cause contamination due to lack of education, bin placement and consistency in programs.

The real estate adage "Location, Location, Location" also plays a vital role in successful recycling programs. Recycling Bin 101 teaches: ALWAYS place a trash receptacle next to a recycling bin, preferably closer to first consumer contact.  In CleanRiver's informative blog post, Placement of Recycling Bins, industry experts discuss in detail the integral role bin placement has on program success .  Additionally, CleanRiver recommends to NOT place bins in crowded areas and validates recycling center visibility as key to clean material collection.
trash cans @ park far away from
recycling bins

Simple signs educating via pictorial language prove effective in most recycling programs.  With many common languages in use, communicating through pictures proves effective.  

During a recent urban walk pictures proved consumers assumed ALL plastic items are recyclable.  An old thermos along with a couple other items landfill bound were mistakenly placed in the ample recycling bins.  At the park, there was no signage communicating appropriate placement of disposed items and trash cans were not close to the recycling bins. 
oops, plastic not meant for single-stream
recycling put in bins

Contamination happens with the best intentions in many cases - it is the industry's responsibility to provide the educational tools so the consumer may dispose of items in alignment with recycling programs.

At the December Sustainable Foodservice Packaging meeting at the National Restaurant Association's offices, an emerging theme was the necessity of a consistent recycling voice to the corporate and personal consumer. The ZWZ Blog post, Sustainable Foodservice Packaging Meeting, gives an overview of the gathering.

Yikes, look @ the valuable PET in trash
can located far away from recycling bins
Consistency is integral to shifting human nature and habits when disposing of spent items.  The common challenge is there is minimal consistency in recycling programs AND what is accepted by the local recycling companies.  

When touring an Atlanta MRF (materials recovery facility), the destination of a strong portion of the city's single-stream recycling, the touring team learned that only #1 & #2 plastics were segregated for sale.  The remaining plastics were either sent to a landfill as trash, sold to a local company for incineration, or baled as mixed plastic for oversea shipment.  Wow - what an eye opener!  The Ei FB album, 03-11-11 SP Recycling Tour, gives a pictorial overview of the informative, excellent tour.

What is the solution?  Elemental Impact says applaud success, encourage strong educational tools, invite all to participate in recycling efforts and ,most important, stay optimistic.  Remember, if it was easy, effective recycling system would already be mainstream.  Let's each do our part, no matter how big or small, with a cheerful heart.