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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!

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