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Monday, February 4, 2013

Compost, A Magical Experience

Buena Vista Palace
The U.S. Composting Council hosted their 21st Annual Conference & Tradeshow, The Magic of Compost, January 28 - 31 at the Buena Vista Palace in Downtown Disney, Orlando, Florida. Although The Magic of Compost was a play on the Disney location, there was mega magic in the conference energy. 

Industry colleagues and dear friends from across the Americas converged on the Magic Kingdom to learn, share and explore the composting industry current status and future directions.  Beyond the superb pre-conference tours | workshops, conference sessions and post-conference equipment demonstrations, energy sparkled during the abundant social interactions, where the "real business" happens.

Composting Tour Group
Via Partners, Strategic Allies, Advisory Council Members and staff, Elemental Impact was well-represented at the conference.  Beginning with the Pre-Conference Composting Facility Tours, Ei founder Holly Elmore joined Ei Partners Chris Bradlee (BASF), Tim Goodman (Natureworks) and Ernie Lefler (Quantum Leap Enterprises) along with Strategic Alley Matt de la Houssaye of Global Green's CoRR for a day touring food waste destination options in Central Florida.  For a recap of the fantastic tours, see the ZWA Blog post, Central FL: Ripe with Options for Food Waste.

The conference officially opened with an excellent morning plenary session featuring keynote speaker Vonda Lockwood, Walmart director of sustainability for U.S. operations. Vonda's tenacity was vital to Walmart taking the national leadership role in commercial food waste diversion from landfills.

Mitch Kessler introducing
Scott DeFife
"Opportunities and Barriers to Compost Industry Growth," a panel of industry leaders, wrapped up the morning plenary session. Mitch Kessler of Kessler Consulting was an entertaining panel moderator. Ei Advisory Council Member Scott DeFife, National Restaurant Association executive vice-president government & public affairs, received a mini roast as part of his panel introduction. Humor is an effective communication tool and Mitch set a fantastic tone for the crowd to "hear" the panel's important industry messages.

Scott was joined by George Dreckman - City of Madison, William Caesar - Waste Management, and Jeffrey Leblanc - Wecare Organics for a diverse, balanced panel. After his pertinent prepared questions, Mitch reserved ample time for audience questions.

Lynn Dyer @ podium
In the afternoon Ei Advisory Council Member Lynn Dyer - Foodservice Packaging Institute president - moderated an impressive session on compostable packaging. Caitlin Leibert, Chipotle Mexican Grill sustainability coordinator, gave the foodservice operator perspective while Georgia Pacific and MeadWestvaco represented the packaging manufacturers. Tim Goodwin of NatureWorks gave a resin-provider as well general industry viewpoint. Noel Lyons' of McGill Environment Systems input as a composting facility operator was essential for grounding the panel discussions.

On the conference opening day, tradition dictates an early evening reception in the exhibitor hall before folks embark on dinner adventures. The reception is perfect for new friends and long-time pals to relax, review the day's powerful sessions and plant seeds for important future action. 

Compost Gurus: Brenda, Wayne
& Britt
Ei's compost experts were happy to spend time together as the reception closed:  Brenda Platt (Institute for Local Self-Reliance) - compostable packaging , Wayne King (ERTH Products) - composting best practives and Britt Faucette (Faucette Consulting) - the scientific & microbial aspects.

On the second and final educational session day, Ei founder Holly Elmore joined colleagues to present on the Food Waste in Focus panel moderated by Tim Goodman of NatureWorks.  As the opening presenter, Holly shared the successes and challenges inherent in bringing zero waste practices, including food waste separation for composting, to food court operations.  Holly's slide on the NRA's purchase of the Zero Waste Zones in late 2012 was a natural segue for Jeff Clark with the NRA to present on the strong USCC | NRA relationship.  In addition Jeff showcased the NRA foodservice sustainability programs and policies in development stages.

Food Waste Focus Panel: Jeff,
Tim, Dan, Holly & Robin
As part of the food waste panel, Robin Sweere of Sweere Consulting gave an informative overview of retailer food waste culture and practices in-place, or lack thereof.  Dan Matsch of Eco-Cycle, a Boulder non-profit, gave an excellent presentation of the community successes and challenges with food waste collection for compost.

At the conference, Ei focused on food waste and packaging oriented sessions.  Yet the educational opportunities ran the gamut for those interested in any aspect of composting ranging from technologies, equipment, legislative updates to odor prevention | control. 

For a pictorial conference recap, visit the Ei FB album, 2013 U.S. Composting Council Conference.

The Magic of Compost - a perfect description for the excellent conference.  After all, the microbial community is its own magical kingdom!

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