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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?!!

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