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Sunday, March 31, 2013

Bring the Possible out of Impossible

A common phrase in Elemental Impact founder Holly Elmore's speaking engagements summarizes the overall driving force in Ei initiatives:
Ei determines what could be done that is not being done and gets it done. Ei brings the possible out of impossible.
While nurturing the Zero Waste Zones from their 2009 launch until the September, 2012 National Restaurant Association purchase, the Ei Team worked closely with industry pioneers to create zero practices grounded in sound business principles and easy to implement.  Quotes, like the below from Dave Rossman, then general manager at the Doubletree Atlanta-Buckhead, were common by late 2009:
"By joining the Zero Waste Zones we were given an easy and cost-saving solution for food waste composting.  We have fewer and lighter compactor pulls since there is no smell from decomposing food in the compactor.  The process was easy and our employees feel good about helping the environment."
With the ZWZ success, the possible was brought out of what seemed impossible in 2008. It was not easy getting to consistent ZWZ Participant quotes on how easy it was to implement food waste collection practices in commercial kitchens. Ei specializes in creating pathways within frontiers by working closely with pioneers willing to make the effort so others may easily follow.

As documented in the ZWA Blog post, Ei: An Established Program Creator, the NRA ZWZ acquisition moved the Sustainable Food Court Initiative center stage for Ei's zero waste focus. True to the Ei tagline: Sustainability in ACTION, the SFCI is in full action mode. In early March, the SFCI Shopping Mall Pilot - Concord Mills in Charlotte, NC - hosted the third Ei Partner Tours. For an overview of the tours, see The IMPACT Blog post, Charlotte Ei Partner Tours.and the Ei FB album, 03-04-13 Ei Ptr Tours - Day 1, for a pictorial recap.

Concord Mills - a Simon Property Group mall with the food court operated by HMSHost - was a natural pilot choice. With Ei Partner HMSHost at the backbone of the Atlanta Airport SFCI Airport Pilot, the foodservice tenant buy-in challenge was not applicable. The ZWA Blog post, ACTION: Theme for the SFCI Shopping Mall Pilot, is an overview of how the Concord Mills Team embarked upon food waste collection for composting, wasted food donation and plastic film recycling pilots.

The Ei Partner Tours were an excellent opportunity to showcase how the WE Conciousness results in programs where all benefit. The ZWA Blog post, Zero Waste is a Team Sport, introduces the WE Consciousness as integral to zero waste success.

The Charlotte "Can Do" Team
Ray, Brian & Larry Jenkins
For an overview of Ray Soporowski's - CM SPG general manager- and Brian Shetron's - CM HMSHost food & beverage director, "can do" attitude that results in action, see the ZWA Blog post, Concord Mills: The Power of "WE" in Action.

Working with the Concord Mills team. Susan Stanton with Tomra | Orwak was instrumental in launching the plastic film recycling pilot. Beyond providing the baling equipment, Susan's industry expertise was invaluable, especially during the chaotic energy present in the creation process.To make it easy for tenants, Ray implemented a porter service for weekly plastic film collection. Tenants are enthusiastic to participate and doing their best to shift internal practices so a clean stream is generated. From the August program launch through the end of February, 18,000 pounds of clean, clear plastic film was baled and sold for recycling at Concord Mills

Jim, Brian & Ray by the new
food waste container
For food waste collection, Jim Lanier of Earth Farms worked closely with Ray and Brian to develop a system that worked well for all. With Earth Farms located 45 minutes from Concord Mills, Jim developed a weekly collection system that kept odors under control. When the original 95 gallon totes proved less than ideal, Jim replaced totes with a 2.3 yard container. Working as a team, Ray's staff moves the container from the interior hallway site to the loading area for Earth Farm's collection. Note: a layer of spent coffee grinds on top of the food waste is an excellent odor control option.

Concord Mills is an exception to most mall designs with their "race track" internal hall system. The halls are wide (equipment placement is relatively easy without infringing on fire codes) and built for vehicle traffic. The mall has forklifts making it practical to move the food waste container to the loading area.  

Brian explains BOH practices to
Laurette & Susan during tours
On the DAY 2 of the Charlotte Ei Partner Tours the entourage traveled to Stanley, NC for an excellent tour of Earth Farms' composting facility.The Ei FB album, 03-05-13 Charlotte Ei Ptr Tours - Day 2, includes a pictorial recap of the Earth Farms tour.

HMSHost works closely with The Food Donation Connection on wasted food donation programs at their airport, turnpike service center and mall operations. At airports the grab 'n go items were the first step to creating a national donation template.The ZWA Blog post, Reduce First, Donate Second, Compost Third, gives an overview of the Tampa Airport donation program.

Brian took the next big step in wasted food donation: prepared, unserved food from Quick Service Restaurants. In accordance with Popeye's quality control chicken must be sold within 20 minutes of frying. Standards like Popeye's generate a significant amount of wasted food that is perfect for donation.

Rev White & Brian
Working with the Food Donation Connection, Brian identified the wasted food generated in the food court operations that meets the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. Next  the local Second Harvest office identified a shelter set-up for food requiring further processing before serving. Reverend White of Urban Street Ministries was a perfect match and collects 300 - 400 pounds of food weekly to feed those living in the streets. 

It is an honor to witness the team work and heartfelt caring required to create and launch the Concord Mills wasted food donation program. Future blog posts will dive deeper into the program along with advice on how to create similar programs where donatable, wasted food goes to composting or the landfill.

As of the tours, 38 tons of food waste was diverted from landfills to composting and 6800 pounds of consumable food was distributed to hungry folks at Concord Mills. By working with Simon & HMSHost, the impact of templates developed at Concord Mills has potential to impact nearly 400 Simon malls and around 80 plus North American airports with HMSHost foodservice operations.

Concord Mills is the perfect pilot: 1> mall & food court managers who operate within the WE Consciousness 2> food court is operated by one tenant, Ei Partner HMSHost 3> mall back-of-the-house design accommodates equipment placement and material transport. With plastic film recycling, food waste collection for composting and wasted food donation programs in-place, it is time to explore zero waste practices in malls with more typical scenarios.

Clean plastic film ready for baling
@ Concord Mills
On DAY 2 the partners started the busy day with a tour of SouthPark Mall, a high-end Simon mall in Charlotte. Plastic film recycling is underway at SouthPark with their baler arriving days earlier. Ray, Brian and Jim joined the Ei Partners to educate Randy Thomas - Southpark general manager- and operations manager Ron Rentschler on the support the Ei Team provides while implementing new practices. First action steps are for SouthPark to explore back-of-the-house food waste collection with staged-in implementation. 

SouthPark has three strong national restaurant tenants - The Cheesecake FactoryMaggiano's Little Italy and McCormick & Schmick's Seafood & Steaks  - who contract for their own waste & recycling services. Ei plans to work on a talking points template for SouthPark to educate the restaurant management that food waste collection for composting makes good business sense. Besides the zero waste impact, the food waste volume from these restaurants creates route density to keep Earth Farm's costs in-line.

Bruce & Ray with
SCFI FOH recycling center
For Concord Mills, the next frontier is front-of-the-house food waste collection in the food court. Challenges abound, making the scenario perfect for the SFCI Team to lend valuable industry expertise. CleanRiver Recycling Solutions Tom Lembo chairs the FOH Recycling Center SFCI committee and is excited to move into action mode. Bruce Buchan - CleanRiver founder & CEO - attended the tours as a featured partner and gave an excellent presentation on DAY 1. The first rendition of the SFCI recycling center is in-place and ready for its next evolution - thank you CleanRiver for your generosity with both expertise and equipment.

Transport and consumer-facing packaging is foundational  to moving the zero waste needle closer to no waste. In the ZWA Blog post, Supply Chain Critical to Zero Waste Success, transport packaging is addressed along with approaching suppliers as partners.  Examples are given where suppliers shifted from "landfill packaging" to reuseable | recyclable options where all win, including the supplier's bottom line.

Jim showing Lynn the final
product @ composting site
Representing single-use consumer foodservice packaging, Ei Advisory Council member Lynn Dyer - Foodservice Packaging Institute president, joined the Ei Partner Tours. FPI is active in industry sustainable options with their Paper Recovery Alliance and Plastics Recovery Group. On her quest to learn industry best practices and potentials, the Earth Farms' tour was a top priority in Lynn's busy schedule. It was Lynn's first visit to a food waste composting site, the final destination for many single-use compostable consumer foodservice packaging. The entire tour group learned from Lynn's inquisitive conversation and questions. 

With impeccable timing, Ei founder Holly Elmore served on a SWANA Road to Zero Waste conference panel with Laurette Hall - Mecklenburg County director of sustainability - the week prior to the Charlotte Ei Partner Tours. For an overview of the conference session, see the ZWA Blog post, Zero Waste, Southern Style. Laurette accepted Holly's invitation and joined the Ei Partners for the DAY 1 tours & presentations at Concord Mills.

Laurette Hall with Linda Dunn
of HMSHost
Jake Wilson - Keep Mecklenburg Beautiful executive director & works with Laurette - is instrumental to Ei's Charlotte presence. Holly connected with Jake long before the first Charlotte adventure and relies on Jake as a local anchor. For the tours, Jake made the majority a priority in his hectic schedule. Local government support is critical to success and Ei is most appreciative of the strong Mecklenburg County bond.

The SFCI Team is staged for action bringing the possible out of what is perceived as impossible.  Exciting times!!!

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Supply Chain Critical to Zero Waste Success

Recycling made easy for employees
photo courtesy of Subaru
In the ZWA Blog post, Zero Waste is a Team Sport, the WE Consciousness is introduced as one of three culture shifts necessary to succeed on the zero waste path. The first WE Consciousness step applies to employees across departments teaming together for contaminant-free material collection.  

Next the company works with haulers and recycling companies to create systems where the material maintains maximum valuable for sale with a low carbon footprint. These steps are integrated and often occur in unison.

Once the by-products and materials generated in a company's operations are reused, re-purposed or recycled, the remaining "trash" destined for landfills often relates to transport packaging for office items and raw materials used in production processes. Zero waste companies across industry sectors work in partnership with their suppliers to create reusable and | or recyclable transport packaging, thus edging closer to the finite "zero"

Understanding the supply chain's imperative role for zero waste success, Inside Supply Chain Management published The Journey to a Zero-Waste Supply Chain in their March issue Sustainability Column. Written by Elemental Impact founder Holly Elmore, the article is introductory in nature. with an overview of zero waste including the WE Consciousness.  

The article addresses how zero waste practices are locally driven by available infrastructure and material end markets. Infrastructure is defined as recycling companies that accept specified, presorted materials and the hauling companies that transport material from the generating company to the recycling company. 

Recycling Integrity - maintaining maximum material value with minimal energy expended -  is at the foundation for long-term program success. Local end markets, along with the commodity market, dictate how best to aggregate and sell material for recycling. Energy is defined as labor hours and effort, transportation, electricity | water and other energy used within the entire system.

Scott w/ fellow Ei Ptr Amy Moreland
of Heritage Interactive Services
Zero waste icons Piazza Produce and Subaru of Indiana Automotive, worked closely with their supply chain to develop transport packaging that was either reusable or recyclable.  When reusable, the supplier picks up the packaging upon a subsequent delivery. Often, the supplier experiences decreased costs by working closely with their customer on reusable solutions; an add-value is deepened client loyalty.

For specific examples of Piazza Produce's WE Consciousness in action, visit the Ei FB album, 09-24-12 Piazza Produce Zero Waste Tour.  Piazza Produce facility manager Scott Lutocka - the gentleman responsible for their zero waste success - wrote informative comments on many of the pictures, creating a valuable industry tool.

The Journey to a Zero-Waste Supply Chain article ends with examples of Subaru's team work at play with their Japan corporate headquarters as well as their suppliers. For an article pdf, visit the Ei Media page to download the file.  An on-line version is not available.

Reusable stacked pkging
photo courtesy of Subaru
NOW is the time for the supply chain to take an active role in their products' life cycle, ensuring integrity is maintained during the production process, delivery | transportation and their customer's disposition options at end of life. Leaders step forward in a proactive manner working within the WE Consciousness to create innovative solutions that benefit the entire industry. Zero waste is only one of many components within product life cycle integrity.

Thank you Institute for Supply Management for taking an important proactive step by publishing the zero waste article in your monthly trade association magazine. Associations are a support avenue to guide members as markets and customer expectations | demands evolve.

Industry leaders understand sustainable practices are business best practices, driven by corporate and personal consumer demand. Beyond their own internal practices. leaders demand their supply chain shifts to sustainable best practices to ensure product life cycle integrity. 

Saturday, March 2, 2013

Power of the Voice

Zero waste is on the verge of mainstream acceptance due to the prominent success stories of impressive landfill diversion supported by significant bottom line improvements. Upfront investment in equipment purchases, standard operating practices evolution, signage and training often results in a quick ROI - return on investment.

... and now the naysayers, those eager to criticize success with one-sided perspectives, are coming forth.  A prime example is a November Waste & Recycling News editorial that attacked The Ohio State University's phenomenal 98.2% diversion rate at the November 3, 2012 game. In the November 26 Zero waste can have high costs editorial, WRN questions whether OSU overachieved with the high rate. "Let's not divert common sense too" was a comment in the editorial.

Questioning program costs is important.  Research into corresponding benefits, monetary and otherwise, before publishing critical copy on costs is inherent within quality journalism. Scott Lutocka, Piazza Produce facility manager, used his eloquent, experienced voice to throw penalty flags on the WRN editorial in his rebuttal,  OSU should be lauded for its efforts. Kudos to WRN for publishing Scott's rebuttal.

Scott speaking at zero waste event
The WRN editorial and Scott's rebuttal exemplify the Power of our Voices.  When unsubstantiated jabs are published, it is important to diffuse the slanted message with substantiated facts in an easily heard voice.  Scott infiltrated his rebuttal with OSU zero waste program facts and then wrote with a sports overtone.  "I just blew my referee's whistle and threw my yellow penalty flag onto Waste & Recycling News' playing field." is the opening sentence. At the rebuttal's end Scott substantiates his authority as the manager who brought Piazza Produce to zero waste while "turning trash into cash", i.e. improving the bottom line.

At other times it is best to remain silent as OSU did upon publishing of the biased editorial.  If OSU had written a response, it most likely would appear defensive and give more energy to the criticism. OSU President Gordon Gee sent Scott a personal thank you for writing on OSU's behalf.  

To learn about Piazza Produce's zero waste journey under Scott's stewardship, visit the Zero Waste is a Team Sport post and the Ei FB album. 09-24-12 Piazza Produce Zero Waste Tour.

Corey Hawkey
Columbus Alive, People to Watch
For an excellent OSU game day recycling overview watch the OSU Zero Waste video. FUN, the stadium achieved 94.5% landfill diversion during the game filmed, the first official OSU zero waste game!  

Congratulations to Corey Hawkey, program coordinator for OSU's energy services and sustainability office, and his team for developing a successful program in a nearly 106,000 seat stadium  - no easy feat!  A future blog post will dive deeper into OSU's winning zero waste program.

Let's play nicely together and remember the Power of the Voice.  As witnessed with Scott's rebuttal, penalty flags for poor behavior may be thrown in a manner where all win.

Note:  WRN requires a subscription to see articles.

Friday, March 1, 2013

Zero Waste, Southern Style

Zero waste advocates from around the country were treated to southern hospitality at the Solid Waste Association of North America's Road to Zero Waste Conference held February 24 & 26 at Embassy Suites Centennial Park in downtown Atlanta. The Zero Waste, Southern Style session showcased recycling strides in the Southeast.

Jules, Holly, Tim Laura &
John Skinner (SWANA )
Tim Flanagan - Monterey Regional Waste Management District assistant general manager SWANA’s recycling & special waste technical division director - was an excellent session moderator. Leading the Atlanta contingent, Laura Turner Seydelinternational environmental advocate and Elemental Impact Environmental Advisor - gave an impressive overview of Atlanta's recycling achievements, including creation of the Zero Waste Zones. In her talking points, Laura emphasized the importance of public | private partnerships when establishing infrastructure and successful programs.

Following Laura, Jules Toraya - City of Atlanta zero waste manager - gave an empowering presentation on the City's Office of Sustainability's Power to Change campaign featuring Lifecycle Management, Waste Reduction, Ruse of Valuables and Recycling. With a few additions, Ei's Recycling Integrity definition serves as the campaign's objective:
Maintain maximum material value through waste reduction, material reuse and recycling with minimal energy expended.
Jules @ podium
In his presentation Jules noted the intrinsic role end markets play in developing recycling infrastructure. Georgia has 25 manufacturers who rely on recycled glass, plastic, metal and paper to make new consumer goods. In 2012 these manufacturers cumulatively generated $4 billion in annual sales and employed 4,455 Georgia residents. Strong regional end markets for material is the foundation for augmenting local economies via zero waste infrastructure.

During Tim's introduction, the audience gave Jules a round of applause in appreciation for his decorated active military duty in the Iraq war.

Rounding out the Atlanta story, Holly Elmore - Elemental Impact founder - shared Atlanta's role in program development for national platforms. In 2009 the Zero Waste Zones, chaired by Laura Turner Seydel, launched at an acclaimed press conference leading to a CNN story, NY Times front-page article and a profile. The National Restaurant Association acquired the ZWZ in 2012 for national expansion through their state restaurant association network. For details on the ZWZ acquisition, see the ZWA Blog post, Ei: An Established Program Creator.

With the ZWZ under NRA guardianship, the Sustainable Food Court Initiative takes center stage in Ei's zero waste focus. SFCI Pilots include: Airport:  Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, Event Venue: Georgia Dome, Atlanta  and Shopping Mall: Simon mall Concord Mills, Charlotte, NC.  A quick update of each pilot's action was given.  Holly's PPT presentation is available on the Ei Speaking Engagements page.

Laurette @ podium
In her closing remarks, Holly mentioned the Charlotte Ei Partner Tours scheduled for March 4 - 6, a perfect segue for the next presenter, Laurette Hall, Mecklenburg County environmental manager. In her Don't Let the Name Stop the Aim presentation, Laurette emphasized the importance of developing solid workable plans and the art of gaining community support. Interwoven within her comments were the challenges of addressing zero waste from the government perspective and the inherent politics of working with elected officials. In her optimistic fashion, Laurette gave a template for success and was happy to share the detailed documents developed by Mecklenburg County.

As the final session speaker, Mitch Kessler - Kessler Consulting president - gave a passionate presentation on Florida's recycling scenario with a focus on Key West. Mitch emphasized policy, supported by a political champion, as a critical driver for recycling program development. In his closing remarks reminded the audience to keep solutions local, be flexible and know there are many roads to zero waste.

Continuing with the Southern theme, Jeff Meyer - CocaCola Refreshments sustainable packaging manager - was the luncheon keynote speaker. During his presentation Jeff gave an overview of zero waste practices in-place at corporate-owned facilities followed by product packaging education. It was apparent Jeff served as an internal liaison between packaging geared toward consumer marketing and sustainable options available. 

The Recycle and Win Patrol
During the interactive Q&A session, Jeff to shared Coca-Cola's dedicated community involvement including a fun, effective  Mecklenburg County program. The Coca-Cola sponsored Recycle and Win program “catches” residences with contaminant-free recycling bins and rewards them with $100 Harris Teeter gift cards. For additional program information  visit The IMPACT Blog post, A Man of Controversy; A Man of Action, naming Jake Wilson - Keep Mecklenburg County Beautiful executive director, IMPACTOR of the month, February 2011.

The SWANA Road to Zero Waste conference showcased the Southeast's innovative recycling programs supported by a commitment to integrity. Several West Coast friends commented they had no idea the South was so proactive in zero waste arenas. Hmmm...... is the modest southern culture a bit too modest?!!