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Saturday, June 1, 2013

SFCI - Atlanta Airport Pilot: ACTION Update

The Sustainable Food Court Initiative Team gathered in April at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Terminal F - the International Terminal - for a front and back-of-the-house tour of the food court operations. In a holding pattern since June 2012, the tour launched the SFCI - Atlanta Airport Pilot back into action mode. The ZWA Blog post, SFCI-Atlanta Airport Pilot: ACTION Resumes!, is a tour overview intertwined with pilot history.

With impeccable timing, Liza Milagro joined the City of Atlanta Department of Aviation as recycling coordinator weeks prior to the team tour. First on Liza's list was " to know the airport's trash, up close and personal."  For three weeks, Liza chronicled the traveler disposal patterns on the seven airport terminals and documented her findings on a color-coded airport site plan.

Liza Milagro
 Liza Milagro
AECOM - the airport's sustainability consultant - is in the midst of an airport-wide waste characterization study; Liza is working closely with their team. Preliminary results show organic waste, mainly food, comprises roughly 50% of the waste stream. 

Discussions are underway to create a viable short-run food waste collection program for the airport. In spring 2012, Greenco Environmental closed their composting facility and the closest food waste permitted facility is in Toccoa, GA, over 100 miles from the airport. Long-run plans are for an on-site recycling center, including an organics recycling system.

On another front, Pei Wei, a HMSHost food court restaurant in the International Terminal, participated in a kitchen hood filter system pilot designed to document the water usage and toxicity reductions with filter use. In addition to the environmental impact, the pilot quantifies the economic benefits.  

Grease build-up in kitchen duct
system prior to filter installation
Ei Partner Ellis Fibre designed a patented lambs wool filter that is placed in front of the hood baffle filters. Note the baffle filter purpose is to "baffle" flames to prevent entrance into the duct system and contain a grease fire within the kitchen. The Ellis Fibre filters collect 90 - 95% of the grease BEFORE it enters the ducts. Thus, grease build-up is prevented throughout the hood system and on the roof. In addition to a fire hazard, rooftop grease build-up may cause structure damage resulting in costly repairs for the building owner.

The pilot is complete and an independent engineer is documenting the results in a soon-to-be-published white paper. For details on the Ellis Fibre filter system, see the ZWA Blog post, Zero WATER Waste: more than a goal, a necessity. The pilot is Elemental Impact's first step in the Water Usage | Toxicity focus.

Working closely with Liza, the SFCI - Atlanta Airport Team will zero in on the International Terminal food court to create best recycling practices in a scenario where transient consumers are responsible for material source-separation. The International Terminal has several unique attributes:

  • twelve gates versus thirty plus gates on other terminals.
  • a loading dock with secured street access; other terminal loading areas are on the tarmac next to airplanes.
  • food court custodial service provided by SFCI Team member HMSHost; other food courts custodial services are third party contracts
  • ample back-of-the-house hallway space for recycling bins; in most cases, such space is non-existent in other terminals.

SFCI - ATL Airport Team
While the SFCI Team focuses on the International Terminal, Liza will work on a sustainability and zero waste plan for the entire airport. As the world's busiest airport for thirteen consecutive years, the Atlanta Airport employs 50,000+ employees - the size of a medium-sized city!

With her boundless enthusiasm grounded in practical experience, Liza  is perfect for the daunting task of creating an achievable Atlanta Airport zero waste plan. Working within the WE Consciousness and supported by visionary Michael Cheyne - Atlanta Airport director of asset management - Liza intends to create templates that other airports may modify for their unique circumstances.

Stay tuned for future SFCI - Atlanta Airport action updates!


  1. Hello Holly,

    I enjoyed reading this update on the SFCI for the Atlanta Airport. No doubt groundbreaking work is being done here, and it seems that smaller localized composting operations are going to continue to be the better path forward. And maybe it can inspire a closed system with ingredients for the food court grown on site as well...

    1. Hello Lisa, Thanks for your interest in Ei's work and taking the time to write your comment on the article. Though not ready for public announcement, the Atlanta Airport is working on the business case justificationl for "Green Acres," which include greenhouses in later stages of implementation. .... stay tuned!