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Sunday, May 18, 2014

USZWBC Conference Theme: Zero Waste Evolution

Inherent within the excellent 2014 U.S. Zero Waste Business Council Conference program hosted in Atlanta, GA was the significant industry evolution since the inaugural 2012 conference.

Eiko Risch & USZWBC
executive director Stephanie Barger
At the 2012 conference held in Costa Mesa, CA, the program featured national and regional companies who took pioneering roles in corporate zero waste practices. Morning keynote speaker Eiko Risch of Ricoh Electronics gave an impressive overview of Ricoh's zero waste and sustainability accomplishments. As with other speakers, Eiko detailed the necessary ingredients for zero waste success: top management buy-in, employee participation and supply chain engagement to name a few. Bottom line improvement was a common theme among presenters.

The ZWA Blog article, USZWBC hosts first rate conference, is a conference overview along with dialogue on Zero Waste Basics.

For the second USZWBC Conference, Cincinnati was the host city for the stellar program. With Zero Waste Basics established the prior year, the 2013 conference program focused on fine tuning practices to ensure zero waste success. At the 2012 conference top management buy-in was discussed as vital to successful programs. In 2013, Scott Stephenson - Mitsubishi Electric America corporate manager - stressed the importance of top management engagement. In addition, Scott emphasized Know Your Trash, Up Close and Personal, the name of the ZWA Blog article documenting the first day of the 2013 conference.

In addition to "Know Your Trash" several other common themes intertwined the presentations: 
  • securing associate engagement supported by consistent, repetitive training
  • rewarding employees for program participation along with system improvement suggestions
  • utilizing peer pressure as a motivator for the late adopters | nay sayers
  • incorporating simplicity into program parameters and logistics.
Two additional ZWA Blog articles chronicle the powerful 2012 conference: Zero Waste Success Requires WE Consciousness,and Zero Waste is a Team Sport, a powerful panel.

For the 2014 USZWBC Conference - Creating Value Through Zero Waste, the superb program topics substantiated the zero waste industry's continued evolution. Hosted in Atlanta, GA - a city entrenched with zero waste roots via the 2009 Zero Waste Zones launch - the conference sessions addressed the far-reaching impacts of zero waste practices.

Brenda @ the podium
Brenda Platt - Institute for Local Self-Reliance co-director - opened the second day programs with her keynote presentation, Pay Dirt: Composting in America to Reduce Waste, Create Jobs, and Enhance the Soil. Brenda educated the attentive audience about the vital role food waste collected for composting plays in soil, water and air quality. In addition to environmental impact, Brenda emphasized composting facilities create jobs and contribute to the local economy.

Food and beverage packaging plays a critical role in food waste collection for composting programs. Plastic contamination, whether from plastic foodservice items or plastic-coated paper plates, cups and bowls, is a serious concern in composting operations. In her presentation, Brenda shared EcoCycles' Microplastics in compost is a BIG potential problem website page, which explains why plastics in soil are as dangerous to our environment as plastics in our oceans. 

Composting is a local venture and Brenda gave examples how many communities, including Portland, Seattle, San Francisco and Austin, address food waste via public policy and regulations. Seattle incorporated packaging requirements within the city regulations. 

Brenda's slide on the
SFCI - ATL Airport work
As an Ei Advisory Council Member, Brenda worked closely with Elemental Impact on the Atlanta Airport's compostable packaging requirement provision in the 2011 concessionaire contract. Brenda featured the Atlanta Airport work in her presentation.

Along with support from the Sustainable Food Court Initiative Team, ILSR | Ei issued the Atlanta Airport Compostable Foodservice Ware Packet that explains the contract provision, defines compostable packaging along with an explanation of its role in food waste collection programs, and includes a frequently asked questions section. The ZWA Blog article, Atlanta Airport Makes Bold Sustainable Statement, announces the contract provision.

Following Brenda's keynote presentation, Sierra Nevada Brewing Company sustainability coordinator Cheri Chastain moderated the Businesses Lead the Way to Zero Waste plenary panel. First at the podium, General Motors global waste reduction manager John Bradburn gave a creative, impressive presentation on Reimagining Waste.

Volt battery case nesting box
Committed to traditional zero waste practices, GM has 111 landfill-free facilities with 50 in North America. In 2006, GM initiated a vehicle component recovery program that evolved from landfill avoidance to supporting natural habitats and community involvement. According to John: When is recycling a material bad? When it can be reused for more value, less energy demands. Ingenuity and creativity are necessary ingredients to establish reuse programs that make a difference in the community.

GM donated 4,000 yards of scrap sound absorption material from the production of Malibu and Verano sedans to a non-profit. Around 800 self-heated, waterproof coats that transform into sleeping bags for homeless individuals were made from the scrap material. Spent pallets are dismantled and used in building construction. Cadillac parts transport packaging are used for raised bed urban agriculture. In Uzbekistan, the grass on the factory grounds is baled for hay.

By 2020, a GM goal is all manufacturing sites have wildlife habitat certificate or the equivalent, where feasible. In alignment with this goal, scrap Volt battery cases are made into wildlife nesting boxes that provide a safe haven to lay eggs.

Laura Turner Seydel &
Bruce Buchan with a CR Nest Box
In alignment with using manufacturing by-products to benefit natural habitats, Ei Partner CleanRiver Recycling Systems (CR) introduced their Project Nest Box program. Bird box assembly kits are made using 98% post-consumer content plastic board scraps from CR's recycling bin production. The boxes are donated to schools in kit format, complete with assembly hardware required, ready for the students to assemble and place on school grounds.

At the conference, CleanRiver CEO Bruce Buchan and Laura Turner Seydel, Captain Planet Foundation (CPF) Chair, discussed Project Nest Box's alignment with the CPF Learning Garden Program. Future blog articles will chronicle the seeds planted at the conference.

Wrapping up the plenary panel, Ei Partner Novelis Vice-President and Chief Sustainability Officer John Gardner presented on Driving to a Closed Loop Business Model & Zero Waste. Epitomizing the critical role played by the supply chain in zero waste initiatives, Novelis takes a proactive approach to their environmental footprint as well as their customers'. As the world's largest manufacturer of rolled aluminum, shifts in Novelis practices have a profound global impact in many industries and markets.

John Gardner @ the podium
Novelis is the world's largest aluminum recycler with a commitment to reach 80% recycled content in Novelis Aluminum as well as zero waste-to-landfill in operations by 2020. An increase from the current 33% recycled content to 80% will remove 10 million metric tons of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions annually from the aluminum value chain.

In primary aluminum production, aluminum is refined from the raw material bauxite - for every ton of aluminum refined from bauxite, two tons of red mud waste are produced. As recycling reduces the use of primary aluminum, Novelis' use of scrap instead of primary prevented 2.5 million metric tons of red mud waste from being generated in the past year. When the 80% recycled content is achieved, Novelis Aluminum will prevent a stupendous amount of red mud waste and GHG emissions production along with significant other by-product impacts. 

A catalyst for sustainable innovation, Novelis worked closely with British car maker Landrover on introducing the 100% Novelis Aluminum 2014 Range Rover. With a 700 pounds weight loss, the aluminum Range Rover boasts a 9% miles per gallon improvement and a one second cut in the 0 to 60 miles per hour acceleration improvement. Impressive!

The introduction of Novelis evercan™ was a world changing leap forward in promoting closed-loop production. Redefining industry standards and quickly closing the loop to make what is already 100% recyclable, made of 100% recycled content, the evercan™ sheet is certified by SCS (Scientific Certification Services), an independent leader in environmental auditing, and is made of a minimum 90% recycled aluminium. Evercan™ is commercially available in Asia, Europe, North America and South America.

Using his charming British wit, John closed his presentation with a challenge to Sierra Nevada to use evercan™ in their beer distribution by handing Cheri a can!

Sustainability Through Disruptive Innovation - the Novelis 2013 Sustainability Report - reviews the progress and challenges at each life cycle of business sourcing, manufacturing, customer use and end-of-life with customers. Comprehensive and well-organized, the report is an easy-to-follow synopsis of Novelis' sustainability commitment at the core of their corporate values. Recently the report won Ragan's PR Daily Best Report Award, with the following accolades:
Sustainability is the beating heart of this corporation's very identity ... Novelis' Sustainability Report 2013 is the winner of the Best Report category in PR Daily's 2013 Corporate Social Responsibility Awards because this annual report is a model of clear writing. It contains a minimum of corporate-speak and jargon. Instantly intelligible graphics and the literate, candid formulations of the company's goals - and the obstacles still in the way of those goals  - make it a pleasure to read.
Beyond the tangible benefits of zero waste practices, the Zero Waste Branding & Social Marketing Panel addressed the value of incorporating sustainability into a company's core messaging. Ei Supporter and zero waste pioneer, Patrick Cucarro - Affairs to Remember (ATR) Managing Director - gave an excellent presentation on how impressive internal practices segue into powerful external messaging. Keeping with an ATR core value "We're Serious About Fun," Patrick used a clever spaghetti analogy intertwined within his presentation.

Patrick Cuccaro
@ podium
photo courtesy of ATR
According to Patrick, it is important to create a consistent internal script of the company's sustainability practices that may be incorporated into proposals, speaking engagements and other external communications. A simple tagline at the bottom of e-mail signatures is an easy, "free" way to share the company's zero waste story. "Atlanta's first Zero Waste Zones Caterer" is part of an ATR e-mail signature and receives thousands of daily impressions.

Patrick emphasized "telling your story" in a manner that creates a clear visual image for the audience. ATR recently announced their 300 tons of material diverted from the landfill milestone, the equivalent of 550 stacks of empty soda cans as high as the Empire State Building. ATR is launching the Green Files blog where Not everything about Green is Black and White” is scripted in a seriously fun style!

In the Zero Waste: Georgia Grown Panel moderated by Ei program administrator Melissa Selem, Jeff Clark - National Restaurant Association ConServe program director - continues the evolution theme with his presentation on the NEW Zero Waste Zones, Atlanta's Business-Savvy Conservation Program. In 2012 the NRA purchased the ZWZ and evolved the program to expand beyond material management to a broad scope of sustainability practices. The NRA article, Sustainability, zero waste top agenda at business council conference, is a great session recap supported by industry leader quotes.

As promoted pre-conference in the ZWA Blog article, National in Focus, Local in Flavor, the 2014 USZWBC Conference Program was well balanced between national | local presentations, with sessions geared toward zero waste veterans and those embarking on the journey. Topics included a wide range of pertinent topics. The full agenda incorporates ample social time within breaks and a reception at the conclusion of the first-day program. 

Conference PPT presentations are available to view on the USZWBC 2014 Conference program page by clicking on the specific session title. 

The ZWA Blog, Atlanta Shines as Zero Waste Conference Host City, documents Ei’s role in the conference and highlights the many Ei Partners, Advisers and Strategic Allies that served as moderators | presenters, conference sponsors and promotional partners. For a conference pictorial recap, visit the Ei FB album, 2014 USZWBC Conference in Atlanta.

The zero waste evolution is staged to continue with the 2015 USZWBC Conference hosted by the City of Los Angeles, a 2014 conference sponsor. Once the host hotel is established the dates will be announced. Ei is excited to partner with the USZWBC on the exciting journey within the Zero Waste Evolution!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Ei Joins EPA Food Recovery Challenge

In 2011 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) introduced the Food Recovery Challenge (FRC) as a response to the incredible volume of food waste and wasted food destined for landfills. For EPA Region IV, the FRC launched within the hospitality sector in early 2014. The ZWA Blog article, EPA Food Recovery Challenge: Region IV launches FRC in hospitality sector, gives program details and an introduction to the food waste dilemma.

With Atlanta's rich history in food waste reduction, donation and recycling via the Zero Waste Zones 2009 launch and the numerous food donation programs, the EPA Region IV FRC launch within the hospitality sector is synergistic with well-established systems. Modeled after the EPA's Food Recovery Hierarchy, the FRC is a voluntary program. Participants pledge to provide a food waste baseline along with annual goals to prevent food waste, donate wasted food and | or recycle food scraps in a state-permitted non-landfill destination. 

In addition, the FRC serves as a food waste tracking tool with report compilation modules. Information entered into the EPA system is proprietary in nature; the EPA only shares metrics in the aggregate.

For Atlanta's heroes, the FRC is a recognition program for a job well done as well as an opportunity to share their experiences with fellow operators. The ZWA Blog articles, Atlanta's Focus on Food Waste Reduction and Food Waste, the business perspective, highlights Atlanta's food waste heroes and successful programs.

Paula Owens with Ted's Montana
Grill & Kim Charick
With strong connections to foodservice industry leaders, Elemental Impact joined the FRC as an Endorser, committing to recruit Program Participants as well as additional Endorsers. 

Over the pursuing weeks, Ei founder Holly Elmore and EPA environmental scientist Kim Charick embarked on a meeting | call marathon recruiting FRC Program Participants and Endorsers. It was fun reconnecting with the early zero waste pioneers. Eager to join, the pioneers receive recognition for their impressive food waste practices and serve as role models for those new to donation and food waste collection programs. The Ei FB album, EPA Food Recovery Challenge, is a pictorial recap of the meetings.

Jon Johnston @ podium
presenting on the FRC
During a 2014 U.S. Zero Waste Business Council Conference plenary session, EPA Chief, RCRA Programs & Materials Jon Johnston gave an FRC overview along with accolades to the impressive program recruitment in less than three months. 

Kudos to the following FRC Participants who said YES to joining the important program and taking a powerful stand on reducing food waste | donating waste food | recycling food scraps:
In addition, the following organizations pledged their FRC support as Endorsers:
... and the recruiting continues! Future blog articles will document new FRC Participants along with metrics on reduced food waste, donated wasted food | recycled food scraps. Stay tuned!

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Charlotte Focuses on Food Waste with EPA Grant Support

During Earth Week 2014 Charlotte received a boost to their strong food waste reduction focus when a U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region IV Grant Team visited the grand city for three action-packed days. With a plethora of back-to-back meetings and tours scheduled, the team recruited participants for the EPA Grant program.

Kim Charick & Anne Bedarf
on a Charlotte tree-line sidewalk
In late 2013 the EPA Region IV issued a "Scaling Up Composting in Charlotte, NC" Grant to the Sustainable Packaging Coalition (SPC), University of North Carolina Charlotte, IDEAS CenterEarth Farms Organics and Elemental Impact are sub-grantees under the SPC umbrella. In addition, the NC Division of Environmental AssistanceMecklenburg County and Waste Reduction (a private company that works closely with the Mecklenburg County food waste group) are active team members.

For an overview of the EPA Grant goal, objectives and tasks, visit the ZWA Blog article, Scaling Up Composting in Charlotte, NC. The EPA Grant includes a program to assist Charlotte foodservice operators starting food waste collection for compost programs via start-up cost funding along with training and support.

Ei founder Holly Elmore, SPC project manager Anne Bedarf and EPA environmental scientist Kim Charick converged on Charlotte to join the local Grant Team members for the tours and meetings series. Thanks to Meckenburg County Government (MCG) environmental manager Laurette Hall, the first day was filled with tours of county facilities to experience the material and food waste recycling practices in-place.

The Grant Team Ladies
First on the agenda was a tour of the Metrolina Recycling Center operated by Re-Community Recycling. Consistent with Re-Community's educational commitment, the MRF - materials recovery facility - reception area is filled with empowering recycling displays geared towards children. In addition, the MRF has an auditorium for more formal community programs.

The MRF tour was fun and impressive! Whenever touring MRFs, especially well-run ones, it is a strong reminder that contaminants are trash, whether put in a recycling or garbage bin. Within Ei's Recycling Integrity - maintaining maximum material value with minimal energy expended - contamination is defined as an expensive trip to the landfill. 

After the MRF tour, the team visited The Metro School, where cognitively disabled students ranging in age from 3 to 2receive high quality instruction in academics based on grade appropriate NC EXTEND Content Standards. The Metro School served as Mecklenburg County's recycling and food waste pilot school with stellar success.

Jan Burlee shows Anne & Kim
the simple, effective collection system
The key ingredients for success in-place at The Metro School are: 1> staff support & buy-in, 2> captivated audience and 3> a simple system with clear signage. MCG senior environmental specialist Jan Burlee found practical collection buckets with mesh lined inserts at a local home improvement store. As many students are individually fed in classrooms, the compostable bag company provides small aerated totes for use by the staff at meal time. Grant Team member Earth Farms collects the clean food waste for composting at their state-permitted facility.

Students learn to plant and grow their own food at the school's greenhouse and garden. Complete with a compost pile for woody waste and garden scraps, the students experience first-hand nature's perfect mechanism for converting waste into nutrition for the soil and plants.

The delicious lunch at Tupelo Honey CafeNew South Flavors | Scratch-Made Fun, was the perfect opportunity to regroup and prepare for the afternoon meeting with the MCG jail. An added benefit is Tupleo Honey Cafe food waste is collected by Earth Farms for compost.

The Metro School Greenhouse  
At the meeting, Captain Michael Greer and Sargent John Maness educated the Grant Team on the jail foodservice operations and expressed strong interest in joining the grant composting program. First, the Grant Team must satisfy the odor and rodent concerns. With many food waste composting systems in-place throughout Charlotte, the team will arrange a site visit for the jail staff to alleviate current concerns.

Lani Wenman, Keter Environmental Services regional operations manager, joined the team for dinner at Rooster's Wood-Fired Kitchen and Wine Bar. Dinner served as a lovely introduction to Lani, who attended the second day meetings and tours. With the final trip meeting at Carolina Place, a Keter waste & recycling managed mall in Mecklenburg County, the second day tours were an excellent opportunity to educate Lani on the EPA Grant. Ei Partner Keter is a full-service environmental management company specializing in the commercial waste and recycling industry.

For the second day initial tour, Concord Mills (CM) - the Sustainable Food Court Initiative Shopping Center Pilot - was a great place to witness success through collaborative effort. CM general manager Ray Soporowski welcomed the Grant Team along with Lani and gave an overview of SFCI Pilot history and success.

The SFCI food court bin provided
by Ei Partner CleanRiver
Ei Partner HMSHost, CM food court concessionaire, is committed to back-of-the-house food waste collection for compost along with donating wasted food donation. HMSHost food & beverage manager Drew Drayton educated the team on the food waste collection practices in-place. Impressive, the food waste bin was contaminant and unpleasant odor-free!

In addition, CM was a pioneer in developing a plastic film recycling program for malls; the group was treated to a tour of systems in-place. The ZWA Blog article, ACTION: Theme for SFCI Shopping Mall Pilot, gives an overview of the program development and launch. 

CM success is grounded in strong collaborative effort with mall management, HMSHost general manager Brian Shetron and his staff, and the third party contractors, many Ei Partners, working in unison towards common goals. The ZWA Blog article, Concord Mills: The Power of "WE" in ACTION, chronicles the foundation building that propelled the programs into action.

During the mall tour, Ray committed to explore a front-of-the-house food waste collection pilot in the mall food court. The goal is to schedule a summer Charlotte visit to discuss logistics and create an implementation plan for early 2015, after the holiday shopping frenzy. 

Ray with his Orwak baler,
the workhorse of the plastic film
recycling program
Indicative of their pioneer spirit, the CM team hosted the 2013 Charlotte Ei Partner Tours for two days filled with presentations | tours infiltrated with education, camaraderie and fun! Ray and Brian chronicled their pioneering journey to solid, effective food waste collection for compost, wasted food donation and plastic film recycling programs.

Ray and Brian are happy to share their experiences with potential Grant Program Participants to relieve their rodent, odor and other concerns. New participants often request validation from those experienced with food waste collection practices.

The IMPACT Blog article, Charlotte Ei Partner Tours, is an overview of meetings | presentations while the ZWA Blog article, Bring the Possible Out of Impossible, chronicles the tours. Ei's strong MCB relationship was evident at the Ei Partner Tours, one of the reasons Ei is a grant sub-grantee.

Following the CM tour, the Grant Team along with Lani traveled to Dallas, NC to tour Earth Farms' composting facility. A tradition, Jim Lanier of Earth Farms treated the group to lunch at the North Star Seafood Restaurant prior to the tour. Lunch was a perfect venue for Jim to educate on his background, business model and genuine commitment to compost's vital role in soil rejuvenation. 

food waste @ Earth Farms
awaiting its mix with a carbon source
Earth Farms is a well-run composting facility that survived a 500 year flood last July when most of the expensive farm equipment and operations were destroyed. Resilient as soil, Earth Farms shows no evidence of the devastation less than 9 months ago. It takes tremendous tenacity, commitment and faith to retain focus and rebuild operations, rather than drown in defeat. The metro Charlotte area is fortunate Jim Lanier calls this fine area home.

The final dinner was reminiscent of the Charlotte Ei Partner Tours. Ei Supporter Betsy Dyer with Grease Lock Filters joined the Grant Team for a lovely dinner at AZN Asian Cuisine, the Ei Partner Tours finale dinner location. In addition, Sandra Clinton with UNC Charlotte met the group for dinner. The ladies-only dinner was fun and filled with potential for future work.

Breakfast with Sustain Charlotte executive director Shannon Binns was an excellent start to the third and final Charlotte Grant Team visit. It was an enthusiastic meeting culminating with Sustain Charlotte joining the Grant Team. Well-connected, Shannon intends to share his vast connections along with promoting Grant Program participants and successes.

Shannon Binns with Kim & Anne
After the breakfast meeting, MCG senior environmental specialist Nick Crawford joined the group for the SouthPark Mall tour hosted by Ron Rentschler, mall director of operations. After an overview of the Ei | SouthPark long-time relationship and prior tours, Ron showed the group the plastic film recycling program implemented last year in association with the American Chemistry Council. It was interesting to understand how two different malls developed plastic film recycling systems to complement their facility and operations.

Next was a back and front-of-the-house food court tour where Ron was excited to learn about the EPA Grant Program and support. Once SouthPark formally joins the Grant Program, the game plan is to begin with back-of-the-house food waste collection followed by the front-of-the-house.

After the SouthPark tours, the Grant Team met with the HMSHost Charlotte-Douglas International Airport folks about the EPA Food Recovery Challenge. Since the airport has an on-site in-vessel composting system, the Grant Program was not applicable. With their impressive food waste reduction and wasted food donation systems, HMSHost Charlotte Airport food and beverage manager Matt Wissman began the FRC application process during the meeting. The ZWA Blog article, EPA Food Recovery Challenge: Region IV launches FRC in hospitality sector, recaps the FRC.

Kim learning how the food donation
program works
Carolina Place was the final meeting in the three-day Charlotte visit. Lani facilitated a meeting with mall general manager Susan Barwick and operations manager Randy Davis. After introductions and the grant overview, the consensus was to move ahead with joining the EPA Grant Program. With minimal to no risk for the participant, the grant provides incentives and support to inaugurate food waste collection practices as standard operating practices.

Success was the theme for the EPA Grant Team Charlotte Visit! Each EPA Grant Program invitation extended was received with enthusiasm, either by acceptance or a request for more information on food waste collection practices. Pioneers like Ray Soporowski and Brian Shetron at Concord Mills, who are willing to open their back-of-the-house doors and share their experiences, are critical to program success. 

The Ei FB album, April 2014 EPA Grant Team Charlotte Visit, chronicles the powerful three days of tours and meetings. It was amazing to witness Charlotte's strong food waste reduction foundation along with the enthusiasm to catapult their composting status to new dimensions.

With the full spectrum of support from local, state and federal government, higher education, non-profits and private enterprise for food waste composting, Charlotte is a city staged for success!