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Saturday, August 25, 2012

ACTION: Theme for the SFCI Shopping Mall Pilot

Within a week of announcing Concord Mills serves as the Sustainable Food Court Initiative shopping mall pilot, the Elemental Impact team visited Charlotte.  An incredible action plan came together during the 24-hour visit.  The ZWA Blog, Concord Mills - SFCI Shopping Mall Pilot, gives the pilot launch details.

First on the agenda was jump-starting the plastic film recycling program after almost a year of discussions and planning. The June, 2011 ZWA Blog post, Simon Property Group Embarks on Zero Waste Initiatives, details the SPG Atlanta meeting marathon where the sky rocketing plastic film dilemma at malls was a major discussion point.  At the June 16, 2011 meetings, Matt Hupp, then  SPG director waste & recycling, met the two main partners in the plastic film recycling program, Louis Herrera of Hilex Poly and Susan Stanton of Orwak.

Ray with Orwak baler
Six days before the Charlotte adventure, the Orwak baler, workhorse for the program, was delivered to Concord Mills. Ray Soporowski, Concord Mills general manager, was prepared for the Ei group with several bales pre-made and an ample plastic supply from tenants. An unused back portion of a tenant space serves as a perfect plastic film recycling center location.  

During the afternoon educational session, a bale weighing approximately 150 -175 pounds was made of typical tenant-generated plastic.  A visual inspection noted the plastic was 80-85% LDPE (low-density polyethylene) and contained approximately 5% contamination.  Ray estimates Concord Mills' tenants generate approximately 150 tons of plastic film per year.

Ei Team with plastic film bale
In order to secure tenant participation, especially those located further away from the recycling center, Ray determined a porter service for material collection was a must. Including the porter service expense, Ray anticipates a nice bottom line improvement due to the strong LDPE commodity market.  With significant mall square footage, Ray plans to create a second recycling center to service the other half of the mall.

Kevin Robertson, SPG corporate,
with Susan & Ron in discussion
At Simon Property Group sister mall, SouthPark Mall, a plastic film recycling system for a mall quadrant is in place under the oversight of operations director Ron Rentschler. After meeting with the Ei Team, Ron is eager to explore how using the Orwak baling system may improve his collection ability, keep the loading area neater and improve the bottom line.

A central focus for the SFCI is food waste collection beginning with back-of-the-house and seguing into front-of-the-house.  On May 21, Earth Farms Organics began BOH food waste collection from the HMSHost-operated Concord Mills food court along with one other mall restaurant.  With approximately 3,000 pounds per week collected, the program to date collection is just over 8 tons of food waste previously destined for the landfill.

Brian Shetron, HMSHost
Concord Mills GM  
With one more mall restaurant to join the program, Ray plans to invite the single-standing restaurants on the mall outskirt property to participate in the collections.  In addition to the environmental impact, the restaurants' volume will build the Concord area route into an economically viable long-term option.  Jim Lanier owner of Earth Farms Organics is a true team player and to date willing to work on the SFCI pilot collections without route density.

At the Atlanta Airport SFCI Pilot, the concessionaires are required to use compostable foodservice packaging and front-of-the-house food waste collection systems will be implemented when the entire airport operates under the new contract provisions (about 18 months).  In Charlotte, current plans are to retain existing food court packaging, much of which is not compostable or recyclable.

CleanRiver signage on SPG
recycling compactor
Thus, an opportunity arises to develop a food waste and napkin-only food court collection system.  Easy-to-identify bins along with superb signage are key to success.  Ei Partner CleanRiver has the equipment and expertise to design an effective system.  One of CleanRiver's assets is their in-house graphics department and print shop.  As noted in the ZWA Blog post, Simon Property Group at Sustainability Helm, CleanRiver created an excellent signage program for mall recycling and trash compactors.

former landfill destined, BOH
food waste now goes to composting
During the SouthPark meetings, Ron and general manager Randy Thomas were enthusiastic to  join Concord Mills in BOH and FOH food waste collection.  With SouthPark's three big-box restaurants (Maggiano's Little Italy, The Cheesecake Factory, & McCormick & Schmick's) and a strong food court including a California Pizza Kitchen with seated dining, there is tremendous potential for impressive food waste collection and cost-savings.  Ron and Randy left the meeting with a big action item: Visit Ray at Concord Mills!

For a pictorial recap of the Ei Charlotte visit, see the Ei FB album, 08-12 Charlotte SFCI Trip.  Be sure to like the Ei FB page while there!

Eric Dyer of Grease Lock
explaining the filter system
In addition to recycling, the SFCI is focused on REDUCTION.  While in Charlotte the first steps were taken for a kitchen hood filter system pilot designed to capture grease before it enters the hood system.  Anticipated results are a significant reduction in hood cleaning, kitchen labor and maintenance expense for grease build-up on roofs.  Note each hood cleaning uses approximately 350 gallons of water that goes into the sewer system along with the toxins inherent in the cleaning solutions. Renown engineering consultant Jayendra Parikh will analyze the pilot and write an independent report on pilot results.

Plastic film, food waste and kitchen grease are the three main initial action areas for the SFCI shopping mall pilot.  Although the SFCI Team in formation will retain a food court focus, the overall Ei Team is excited to work on  zero waste initiatives, including resource reduction, throughout the entire mall operations and grounds.  Stay tuned for future blog posts on the exciting Charlotte projects.

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