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Sunday, September 30, 2012

Food Waste Donation: Everyone Wins!

Perry Kranias, steward of the
 amazing Tampa Airport program
Inspired by the successful food waste donation program at the Tampa Airport HMSHost operations, Brian Shetron - Concord Mills HMSHost general manager - decided to explore how a similar system would work in a food court scenario. 

At an airport, most of the donated food is "grab and go" meals that are pre-packaged with definitive shelf life. The ZWA Blog post, Reduce First, Donate Second, Compost Third, gives an overview of the Tampa Airport donation program started in September, 2010. To date, 41 airports joined Tampa's lead with a total year-to-date donation of over 500,000 pieces of food (e.g. sandwich, yogurt parfait).

Quality control and high standards by their nature result in food production overages. At HMSHost airport foodservice operations, the pre-packaged foods have a maximum 24-hour shelf life for customer sales.  Popeye's Louisiana Kitchen, a high-volume restaurant in Concord Mills, has a maximum 30-minute hold time once chicken is cooked. Working the balance of food overage and customer selection, the lean is on an overage to ensure customers are happy with menu availability.

Concord Mills staff freezing
food for doantion
At Concord Mills the majority of the food is eaten in the food court versus at an airport where most of the food is carried away. Thus, the mall food is generally in bulk versus pre-packaged in "grab and go" containers easily stacked for donation. For bulk donation items, the food is frozen as soon it passes the quality threshold for later thawing and heating at the shelters.

HMSHost contracts with the Food Donation Connection for their food waste donation programs. As part of their services, FDC assists the operator to determine what food waste generated meets the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act and identifies food bank or shelter programs complementary with the food donation. With an intricate tracking system, FDC works closely with the operator's accounting department to ensure the appropriate inventory donation tax deductions are taken.
one of the first donation collections
photo courtesy of HMSHost

In mid-September, Brian started Concord Mills food court donations to the local Second Harvest affiliate. Current estimates are 300 - 400 pounds of food donated per week from the HMSHost-operated food court for an annual 7.5 tons of food going to hungry bellies instead of composting.

The Concord Mills food waste program epitomizes how best practices create scenarios where all parties WIN:  
  • Local shelters receive additional food for a hungry population.
  • Simon Property Group, owner of Concord Mills, has reduced waste | recycling tipping fees. More importantly, SPG has a template to implement in their almost 400 malls nationwide.
  • HMSHost receives an inventory donation tax deduction resulting in an improved bottom line. More importantly, a template is created for their shopping mall food court operations. Brian and his team know their efforts make a huge difference to their local community and beyond.
Kudos to Brian for taking the helm on the Concord Mills food waste donation program. The best part is Brian did not wait for the FDC green light for the tracking system, which begins in October. Stay tuned for more tales once the Concord Mills program is running full-steam.

Is Recycling Sexy?!!

Laura @ podium proclaiming:
"Recycling is Sexy!"
At a recent City of Atlanta press conference, Laura Turner Seydel announced "Recycling is Sexy!" Several subsequent  speakers were clear about their confusion with Laura's profound statement. QUESTION: Is Recycling Sexy?

According to most on-line definitions, sexy refers to highly appealing, attractive and interesting.  

The ZWA Blog post, Zero Waste is a Team Sport, establishes the consciousness shifts necessary to succeed in zero waste initiatives, including a "WE" focus.  In general, those embracing the "WE" instead of the "I" living mode of the recent past, are those who value their quality of life and health.  In addition to embracing recycling, these individuals tend to exercise, eat nutritious food and often live an interesting life style.  Hmmm.... sounds like "sexy folks!" These are points made my Laura at the press conference podium in her points on recycling is sexy.

Mayor Reed at the podium
The City of Atlanta, Office of Sustainability is embracing the power of "WE" with their September 18 announcement that 65,000 households will receive new 96-gallon recycling carts to replace the previous much smaller 18-gallon bins.  Beginning in mid-October, the carts will be delivered at a rate of 1,000 per day. With 30,000 Atlanta residents already using the 96-gallon carts, the entire 95,000 households serviced by the City's curbside recycling program will have the new, larger carts.

Working together, the City invested in the larger carts answering a collective call for increased recycling availability at the household level. In return, the City will reduce waste costs resulting in an overall WIN for the community - one of the premises of the "WE" consciousness.

Atlanta "WE" Team
honored at the press conference
(album gives names) 
During her podium time, City of Atlanta director of sustainability Denise Quarles honored the collective zero waste efforts in-place within the community with specific organization and individual mention. Atlanta Recycles, Keep Atlanta Beautiful, Elemental Impact, Georgia Recycling Coalition, Sustainable Atlanta and the U.S. EPA, Region IV were included in those recognized for past success and future collaboration with the City. Denise understands it is the "WE" consciousness that brings a community together for a common cause.

Denise and Laura shared podium time with Mayor Kasim Reed, Council Member Aaron Watson, City Chief Operating Office Duriya Farooqui, and City Deputy Commissioner of Public Works Dexter White. The stellar press conference team indicates the importance the City places on their recycling and sustainability commitment.
Sustainability All-Stars Lauren Dofort
& Tim Trefzer - looking "sexy"

Elemental Impact is honored to join the City's ":WE" team.  With the Sustainable Food Court Initiative and other programs, Ei's zero waste initiatives within the corporate community are a strong contributor to the City's overall sustainability goals. 

The Ei FB album, 09-18-12 City of ATL Recycling Press Conference, gives a pictorial recap of the "WE" consciousness evident among Atlanta's sustainability community.  

From Ei's perspective, recycling is highly appealing, attractive and interesting.  ANSWER: Yes, Recycling is sexy, very sexy!  Laura, thank you for pointing out the obvious in your press conference talk.  By the way, YOU are also sexy!

Zero Waste is a Team Sport

Zero waste initiatives require a consciousness shift on numerous levels. To achieve the accepted 90% diversion rate, organizations must replace common thought patterns with a holographic consciousness. In simplistic terms, the following are three initial shifts necessary for zero waste to replace landfill waste:

First, the "pay and forget" era is over; the consumer must take responsibility for the by-products generated from their activities and ensure materials are reused or recycled. The Elemental Impact Recycling Integrity page dives deeper into the holographic approach necessary to ensure integrity is maintained throughout the entire material management process.

manure-filled bedding awaiting
its next step in the perpetual life cycle
Second, waste management is replaced by materials / by-products management. In nature there is no "waste"; it is time to emulate nature's perpetual life cycle system.The ZWA Blog post, Perpetual Life Cycle System - Simplicity is Key, introduces PLCS using an on-farm anaerobic digester as an example of a system following nature's no-waste baseline.

Third, the "I" focus is replaced with the "WE" focus. The impact of our actions extends to the entire community and beyond; collective action accomplishes more profound results than singular effort. By working together, synergies are unlocked, unnecessary boundaries, including competitive barriers, disintegrate, and creative energies catapult possibilities into grounded realities.

Zero waste initiatives offer tangible opportunities to incorporate the consciousness shifts into standard operating practices. Once a company accepts the first two shifts, action is ready to begin with the third shift.

Doug Kunnemann, John Livengood,
Amy Moreland & Scott Lutocka
Integral to the "WE" consciousness is each component of the recycling value chain must make a reasonable profit for a sustainable, long-lasting system to develop. Example: with team effort, neighboring companies may create sufficient route density and quantities to justify the recycling company's transportation and labor costs.

On a recent Indianapolis Ei Industry Tour of Piazza Produce's zero waste distribution center, the group witnessed the powerful impact of superlative team effort. Facility manager Scott Lutocka uses amazing creativity to accomplish his zero waste goals and motivate others to join the team. Purchasing cool box cutters was the trigger point to generate enthusiasm for cardboard box break-down prior to baling.

Baled cardboard ready
for sale
Scott used a "big brother is watching" technique to break the habit of employees depositing cardboard in the trash compactor. With a facility-wide surveillance system, Scott could witness the culprits trashing valuable cardboard. It only took a few company-wide announcements "Excuse me, that cardboard is not trash" to establish a new habit of placing cardboard in the recycling bin.

Working within the "WE" context involves compromise and understanding others' perspectives. Once Scott scolded a tired, frustrated truck driver for not separating his recyclables. The driver's unrepeatable response was the catalyst for an on-site mini-MRF (materials recovery facility) where materials are separated by staff with specific recycling responsibilities.  

Once the valuable material is separated for recycling, the the remaining "trash" becomes the focal point.  As with most companies, Scott learned packaging was his biggest challenge.  Using team spirit and creativity, Scott works with his suppliers to shift packaging to reusable | returnable or recycling options.  

No more glue in the packaging
Upon Scott's request, an herb supplier stopped gluing the polystyrene liner to the cardboard box. When glued the entire packaging was trash, without the adhesive the polystyrene and cardboard are easily separated and recycled.  MULTIPLE WIN: the producer saves money by eliminating the gluing process!

Diligent, persistent effort brought Piazza close to the 90% zero waste diversion rate yet not over the threshold. Food waste collection for composting was the next big hurdle, requiring a community "WE" effort. Without a permitted composting site in the area nor a hauler equipped for handling food waste, Scott's relentless team leadership was imperative to success.

GreenCycle's mulching facility
John Repenning of GreenCycle, a local mulching and landscape product company, joined the team,  GreenCycle met the appropriate state regulations for food waste composting and accepted Piazza's food waste at one of their several Indy mulching facilities. A local waste hauler worked with Scott on a viable solution for food waste hauling to GreenCycle.

With food waste compost bound, Piazza Produce is officially zero waste!

Zero Waste Icon Scott
Lutocka on plastic film bale
Piazza Produce success is grounded in the required consciousness shifts. The "WE"  is Scott's natural operating mode and at the foundation for Piazza's zero waste leadership role.  Soon the industry will follow due to pure economics as Piazza has an impressive improved bottom line from turning waste cost into recycling revenue.

For details on Piazza's zero waste program, visit the Ei FB album, 09-24-12 Piazza Produce Zero Waste Tour, With his generous spirit, Scott provided additional details in the comment sections.  The Ei FB album, 09-24-12 GreenCycle Mulching Site Tour, gives a pictorial recap of the GreenCycle tour.

Astute business leaders realize the consciousness shift is imminent and are on the Zero Waste Team. Others are waiting until more secure paths are built. The Perpetual LIfe Cycle System Team is in the creation process - YOU are invited to join!

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Perpetual Life Cycle System - Simplicity is Key

In nature "waste" does not exist, rather a perpetual life cycle rearranges molecular structures so the finished product for one use is the basis for its next life. Using modern technology, on-farm anaerobic digestion systems seem to emulate nature's integrated approach to resource management.

Doug Kunnemann, Amy Moreland
& Chris Pierce  during tour
Several Elemental Impact Partners spent an afternoon at Biotown Ag in Reynolds, IN visiting the on-farm anaerobic digestion (A.D.) system. Longtime Ei pal Chris Pierce of Organics Solutions Management gave a detailed tour of the system along with its farm and community integration points.  As managers of the farm A.D., OSM simplified the system processes to create a zero waste scenario where all end and by-products are valuable contributors to the farm and community.

An operating farm with 3,500 head of hormone and antibiotic-free cattle and 900 swine, manure management was the foundation for building the A.D. system. Manure is excellent A.D. feed stock, especially when combined with community "waste" - food, sludge and fats, oils & grease from grease traps. A.D. systems capture methane gas produced from organic decomposition in a controlled environment and generate two by-products: 1> nutrient-rich water and 2> digestate, the remaining solids.

Digestate ready for it next use
as bedding in cattle feed area
The methane gas produced at the Biotown Ag A.D. is converted to electricity, which is used first to power farm operations with the remainder sold to the local grid. With careful testing procedures in-place, the nutrient-rich water is used for on-farm crop irrigation.  Crops are used as animal feed, with a portion returning to manure through the digestion process. The digestate makes excellent bedding for the cattle feed area, returning to the A.D. system once filled with manure. And the perpetual life cycle continues, similar to the cycles in nature.

Simplicity is the foundation inherent in the OSM operating model. In addition to on-farm A.D. systems, OSM developed a series of portable A.D. systems and components through partner company Blue Streams.  With minimal moving parts, Blue Stream units in general use off-the-rack equipment that are easily repaired and / or replaced if necessary. Units fit on standard waste | recycling compactor pads.

Portable Organics Manager
The patented Portable Organics Manager is an on-site food waste collection unit that macerates and slurries food waste for up to a four-week holding period before delivery to its destination, whether A.D. or composting. With an in-system pump, the POM allows for the use of traditional tank trucks and results in significant transportation savings due to larger collection loads.

For a pictorial recap of the impressive tour, visit the Ei FB album, 09-25-12 OSM On-Farm A.D. TourNote Chris added comments to many of the pictures with volume and technical details.

Ei is excited to explore how the perpetual life cycle model may be replicated in commercial settings. Simplicity is key to unlocking the genius model inherent within natural cycles. OSM appears on-track to developing systems where integrity and simplicity intertwine into success.  Soon zero waste practices will evolve into perpetual life systems.