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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!

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