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Monday, August 18, 2014

Sustainability in ACTION at the Georgia Dome

The Georgia Dome (Dome) - home to the Atlanta Falcons - is exploring avenues to refine their impressive recycling practices to new dimensions. As a Founding Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) Participant, the Dome built a strong recycling foundation when the ZWZ launched in February 2009. The ZWA Blog article, Refining Recycling Practices at the GA Dome, gives an overview of the Dome's recycling history and future commitments.

Ei team @ Novelis recycling
dumpster in tail gate lots
In spring 2012, the Dome accepted the invitation to serve as the SFCI Event Pilot.  Along with the Georgia World Congress Center – fourth largest conference center in the nation – and 20-acre Olympic Centennial Park, the Georgia Dome is one of three facilities under the state-owned Georgia World Congress Center Authority. Tim Trefzer - GWCCA director of sustainability - oversees the impressive sustainability accomplishments, including zero waste and well beyond, for the three facilities.

The SFCI - Dome announces the following 2014 Falcons season goals:
  1. Implement a post-consumer food waste collection program
  2. Source-separate material generated for on-site produced mini-bales
  3. Expand game day tailgate recycling initiatives in the GWCC-owned parking lots; explore recycling possibilities at privately held parking lots. 
Establishing baselines | fact finding for the business model development are the first action steps and timing is impeccable with the August pre-season Falcons home games. 

Nov 10 SFCI-dome team
"picking the bowl"
Fact finding for the post-consumer food waste collection program began on November 10, 2013 when the SFCI Team "picked the bowl" post-game for food waste and compostable items. The team collected approximately 130 pounds of compostable material in 13 bags, which were delivered to a permitted commercial composting facility by SFCI co-chair Doug Kunnemann of NatureWorks and Elemental Impact founder Holly Elmore. Great news: the material placed at the end of a windrow composted well!

The Refining Recycling article referenced above includes details on the November 10 game activities.

Continuing the fact finding that began in November, the SMAT - Sustainable Materials ACTION Team - attended the August 8 Falcons pre-season game. With the November game findings grounded in collecting compostable items, the August game mission was focused on identifying contaminants in the food & beverage packaging served at the Dome.

Note the intention is to pilot post-consumer food waste collection on the Club Level for the 2014 season while taking the program to the entire stadium in the 2015 season.

Several seasons ago, Dome concessionaire Levy Restaurants embarked on sustainability practices that laid a solid foundation for the post-consumer food waste collection program. In general condiments are served at pump stations, eliminating the common packet contamination. The Dome suites foodservice uses reusable plates, flatware, napkins, serving platters and beverage cups & glasses and concessions serve food & beverage items in compostable packaging, with a few exceptions.

SMAT post-game @ Dome
Under the direction of SMAT chair Sarah Martell of Innovia Films, team members Rick Lombardo of Natur-Tec, Wendell Simonson of Eco-Products and Grant Braasch of NatureWorks toured the Club Level concessionaire operations scouting for contaminants. 

Once the team reconvenes for a recap meeting, Sarah will draft a report for Tim, Holly and Doug. An outstanding item is to determine if pre-season concession service mirrors season service. An anticipated challenge is packaging used by Levy's sub-contractors at games. At the November game, the team found specialty nuts, cotton candy, chips | peanuts and yogurt containers are the main contaminants when picking the Dome general seating for compostable items.

In addition to post-consumer food waste, the pre-season Falcons games are the platform for the on-site source-separated material model business case. In a nutshell, the model consists of moderate generators using mini-balers to source-separate material into bales, which are delivered to a recycling center. Once weighed and tracked by participant, the mini-bales are aggregated by material into standard mill-size bales. The recycling center stores the bales until ready for sale by the tractor trailer load. Revenue is distributed to participants in proportion to material generated.

GWCC values their cardboard & has
an excellent recycling system
Financial success is grounded in two equally important components: 1> volume and 2> clean material, free of contaminants. For volume, the intent is to recruit Atlanta's zero waste pioneers to once again step into a leadership role. One of the underlying mottos in original ZWZ recruitment was "maximum volume, minimum decision makers." Program participants are required to provide CLEAN material - the tagline is Contamination is a Mistake!

Challenge: no infrastructure exists in Atlanta or most cities to handle mini-bales. Yet mini-balers are essential due to the moderate quantity of material generated. A Dome pilot goal is to substantiate the model improves the bottom line after considering baler cost and increased labor necessary for on-site separation. The model is an prime example of Ei's concept Recycling Integrity - maintaining maximum material value with minimal energy expended.

Creating infrastructure requires aggregating a team of industry pioneers within the entire value chain willing to step beyond "the way it is done" and create new operating practices. The following are the pioneers who stepped forward as industry leaders:

Lead Pioneers:
  • FreshPoint - nation's largest produce distributor
  • GWCC | GA Dome - nation's fourth largest conference center | home to the Atlanta Falcons
  • Georgia Institute of Technology (strong interest with no formal commitment) 
 End Markets:
  • Hilex Poly – world’s largest plastic bag manufacturer
  • Novelis – world’s largest aluminum manufacturer with a recycling plant in Greensboro, GA
  • Pratt Industries – world's largest manufacturer of cardboard boxes from 100% recycled content with a mill in Conyers, GA
Scott Seydel filming @FP
The model originated as a city-wide plastic film recycling template announced in the ZWA Blog article, If it was easy, it would already be done, with FreshPoint taking the leading role. Details on the plastic film recycling template were updated in the ZWA Blog article, Plastic Film Recycling: A New Frontier. In March Ei announced a video filmed and edited by Ei Chair Scott Seydel in the ZWA Blog article, Plastic Film Recycling Template Video Published.

... and then Tim gave the big YES for the GWCC participating in the plastic film recycling template via the SFCI - Dome. Immediately, the template expanded from plastic film to include common recycling materials generated at event facilities: PET, aluminum and mixed paper.

To build the baseline, Tim requested a waste and recycling audit after the August 8 pre-season game by the Dome waste and recycling contractor. Although easy to determine the material generated via purchasing documents, the quantity of material separated for recycling versus sent directly to the landfill is necessary for the baseline. Understanding the contamination within the current recycling practices is another baseline component.

David, Tim & Louis in
Dome loading dock
While the SMAT team scouted the Club Level, Tim, Holly along with Louis Herrera and David Bangs of Hilex Poly visited the loading dock to check out existing recycling practices and examine the potential mini-baler site. Once the GWCCA recycling specialist is hired, recycling rates will immediately increase when an experienced person takes ownership of material generated at the three GWCCA properties. The new position is timed impeccably with the source-separated materials recycling pilot launch.

In true team spirit, Roderick Jackson with UNICOR | Atlanta Penitentiary joined the Ei folks at the August 8 game. Roderick must understand how material is generated, baled and transported to the Atlanta Penitentiary to create the most effective recycling center procedures. 

Orwak baler scheduled
for Dome delivery
Next steps are delivery of a trial Orwak two-compartment baler for the Dome pilot in time for the August 23 pre-season game. While the prime August 8 game focus was post-consumer food waste, the August 23 game is source-separated material oriented. Ei Partners Novelis - the Falcons recycling partner - along with M-PASS and Pratt plan to attend the game. 

A primary August 23 game goal is to bale enough aluminum and mixed paper for UNICOR to make two to three standard mill size bales. In addition, it is important to calculate the time required to sort mixed material bags and make a mini-bale for labor estimates within the business case.

Once the baseline and fact finding are complete, it is time for the template vision to get a reality check via a solid business plan. When the financials indicate the model promises bottom line rewards, the team will reconvene to chart the action course to refine the Dome's recycling practices, including post-consumer food waste, on-site material source separation and tailgate recycling.

The Ei Team is living the tagline, Sustainability in ACTION, at the Dome! 

Monday, August 11, 2014

Contract provisions require team work necessary for zero waste success

Zero waste icons like Piazza Produce and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company paved the way for zero waste success and set industry standards. The common ingredient for success: TEAM WORK! In the September 2012 ZWA Blog article, Zero Waste is a Team Sport, Piazza Produce is featured with facility manager Scott Lutocka emphasizing the team work required internally between departments and externally with the supply chain.

At the 2014 U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) Conference, Sierra Nevada sustainability coordinator Cherie Chastain ended her prominent Brewing a Platinum Zero Waste Program presentation with a Lessons Learned slide. The final lesson: Remember ... zero waste is a team effort!.

Scott holding his Gold USZWBC
Certification with Sue Beets,
USZWBC president
In November 2013 Sierra Nevada received the first USZWBC Platinum Zero Waste Certification for reusing, re-purposing or recycling an impressive 99.8% of waste generated in their operations. At the 2014 USZWBC Conference, Scott Lutocka accepted Pizza Produce's Gold Zero Waste Certification for their 95% recycling rate. The ZWA Blog article, USZWBC Conference Theme: Zero Waste Evolution, is a conference overview along with copy on Piazza Produce's certification.

Common ground for Piazza Produce and Sierra Nevada is overall management has control of the team work required. Either the teammates are employees or suppliers, often with no binding contracts. 

For many organizations, zero waste practices are challenging due to tenant, janitorial or complex waste & recycling contracts. As an example, an office center generally does not control the material generated by their tenants and is at the mercy of a janitorial contract executed without regard to zero waste practices. Event venues, hotels, airports, shopping malls and other large facilities are in similar scenarios where contracts in-place control their ability to create a comprehensive recycling program.

Hartsfiled-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) - the busiest airport in the world and the Sustainable Food Court Initiative - Airport Pilot - took a bold stand in 2011 when Michael Cheyne, ATL director of sustainability and asset management, included a compostable packaging contract provision in the ATL Concessionaire RFP. Michael understood compostable packaging was a key element to post-consumer food waste collection success; a legally binding contract provision was essential to ensure food vendors were team players.

In the October 2011 ZWA Blog article, Atlanta Airport Makes a Bold Sustainable Statement, the following ATL concessionaire contract provision was announced:
Concessionaire shall use compostable serviceware along with consumer facing packaging and source separate all food service wastes for direct transport to off airport composting facilities.
Typical food court trash 
Though the provision spirit remained consistent, the language for the final concessionaire contracts was modified to flow within the document section.

The SFCI Team worked closely with Michael and his associates on developing the Atlanta Airport Compostable Foodservice Ware Packet, a three-section document: Introduction, Fact Sheet and Frequently Asked Questions. In addition, the team provided a Materials Usage document designed to track concessionaire compliance with the contract provision.

Due to the vast number of ATL food vendors, the new concessionaire contract was implemented in stages over eighteen months. With the implementation complete, the ATL sustainability and concessions departments are working together on a game plan to notify food vendors the provision must be met by a specified time. Discussions are underway for a possible phase-in by compostable packaging type - cups, flatware, plates, to-go boxes, sandwich wrap etc.

On August 8 the Elemental Impact (Ei) Sustainable Materials ACTION Team (SMAT) toured concessionaire operations with Liza Milagro - ATL senior sustainability planner - who is overseeing the compostable packaging compliance roll out. The meeting was an introduction to the industry expert support system available to Liza for document preparation and other inquiries.

SMAT group with Liza
With most major restaurant concepts, local to global, represented at the ATL, the contract provision implementation sets the stage for an overhaul of food court packaging. From Starbucks to PF Chang's to TGI Fridays to Chick-fil -A, restaurant chains are legally bound to serve to-go food and beverage in compostable packaging. 

Until zero waste-oriented contract provisions are an industry standard, it takes bold leaders like the ATL to shift industry practices. In addition to bold, the leader must have a strong market hold where such provisions are a given and not part of contract negotiations. 

With the Georgia Dome - current home of the Atlanta Falcons - serving as the SFCI - Event Venue Pilot, the SMAT works closely with Scott Jenkins, New Falcons Stadium general manager. Scott has a strong zero waste pedigree from his tenure at Safeco Field where his team brought the stadium to 90%+ recycling. As the new stadium RFPs are issued zero waste-oriented provisions are a given where appropriate. According to Scott:
"Contract language is a key element that sets the appropriate expectations of all parties involved in any zero waste initiative. Zero waste is a team effort that requires every party to be on the same page."
Scott Jenkins & Ei founder
Holly Elmore
Thanks to excellent team work, the University of North Carolina - Charlotte's (UNCC) new Jerry Richardson Stadium opened with first season zero waste success. The Zero Waste initiative recognized for outstanding collaboration and partnership is an excellent overview of how UNC staff, students and foodservice provider Chartwells worked in unison to achieve zero waste success. 

According to Devin Hatley, UNCC environmental educator & volunteer coordinator, the stadium janitorial contract included a provision requiring staff to follow UNCC zero waste practices. Note Chartwells was a driver in the zero waste program without any specified provisions.

Ei founder Holly Elmore and Ei general counsel Greg Chafee of Thompson Hine are crafting an industry paper dedicated to contract provisions that support zero waste practices. The paper will provide simple contract language examples for service provider, tenant or other contracts critical to program success or demise.

Across the board, zero waste icons agree team work is essential to success. Without public policy or regulations, legally binding contract provisions are an answer to gathering critical players on the same page, same paragraph, same sentence!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Ei Charlotte Visit: Busy, Productive & Fun!

The Elemental Impact Team visited Charlotte, NC July 30 through August 01 to reunite with long-term pals, meet new pioneers and brainstorm on the powerful Ei | Mecklenburg County Government (MCG) synergies. It was a busy three days filled with meetings, tours and strategy sessions.

Kim & Sarah kept tradition with a
Starbucks stop before leaving Atlanta
From Atlanta, Sarah Martell with Innovia Films, Kim Charick with the EPA Region IV and Ei founder Holly Elmore traveled to Charlotte. The four-hour travel time was spent in active discussions on background and future plans for Charlotte work and beyond. On the second and third days Ei Partners Natur-Tec and Keter Environmental Services (KES) joined the Atlanta folks.

Ei Charlotte work began when Concord Mills (CM) accepted the Sustainable Food Court Initiative Shopping Mall Pilot role in 2011. Ei Partner HMSHost's foodservice operations at the CM food court and the Charlotte-Douglas International Airport provides a strong foundation for Charlotte business and government relationships.  

In March, 2013 HMSHost and Simon Property Group | CM hosted the Charlotte Ei Partner Tours to educate on the SFCI - CM successes via presentations and tours. The IMPACT Blog article, Charlotte Ei Partner Tours, is an overview of the tours while the ZWA Blog post, Bring the Possible Out of Impossible, dives into zero waste successes. PPT presentations are available for download on the Ei Partner Tours page.

Kim checking out the clean
plastic film bale @ Concord Mills
The August 2012 ZWA Blog article, ACTION: Theme for the SFCI Shopping Mall Pilot, announced the food waste collection for compost, excess food donation and plastic film recycling programs.

The first Ei Team meeting was at CM with discussions centered on a game plan to refine existing practices into new dimensions of impact.

As the pioneer in mall plastic film recycling, CM general manager Ray Soporowski orchestrated an excellent system that flows with his tenant base and back-of-the house (BOH) logistics. Due to available space, there is one Orwak baler servicing approximately 70% of the tenants. With pending renovations, there is potential space at the opposite end of the large mall to service the remaining tenants. A refinement exploration is using the small baler for other materials currently destined for landfill. An example is the abundant receipts generated at tenant point-of-sale stations.

In alignment with the SFCI's stated post-consumer food waste focus, the goal is to move forward with front-of-the-house food waste collection in the popular food court. The ZWA Blog article, SFCI targets post-consumer food waste, announces the post-consumer food waste focus at each of the SFCI Pilots. 

Ray with Sarah & Kim next
to the Orwak baler
CM program refinements are slated for fall planning with January | February 2015 implementation, after the busy holiday season.

In addition, the SFCI Team intends to create a mall manual with simple instructions for BOH food waste collection for compost and excess food donation program development. With an abundance of malls in Mecklenburg County there is ample opportunity to refine the manual instructions while implementing BOH food waste collection practices.

A first-time visit to Wallace Farm Soil Products was a delight! Family-owned since the mid 1800's, Wallace Farm is a compost, soil and mulch  farm where most of the products are bagged on-site for retail sale. Although food waste generated by foodservice operations is not currently accepted, Eric Wallace is enthusiastic to explore pilots with food waste and compostable packaging geared towards the impact on final product specifications. Laurette Hall - MCG environmental manager waste reduction - joined the Ei Team for the Wallace Farm tour.

A Wallace Farm mare enjoying
a tasty lunch
Beyond discussing food waste composting pilots, the Ei Team was thrilled to discover the miniature horse herd, complete with an hours old foal.

After the Wallace Farm tour, the group headed for a late lunch at Whiskey Warehouse located in the Plaza Midwood neighborhood. Lunch was an excellent time to discuss the full Thursday and Friday itinerary.

A casual Ei dinner at Atlanta-based Taco Mac was a great setting to relax from a busy day. Conversation flowed between personal and business topics while the local and out-of-town folks enjoyed getting to know each other. Ei Partner Rick Lombardo of Natur-Tec joined team at dinner and was briefed on the next day meetings. Eric & Betsy Dryer - local distributor for Ei Partner Grease Lock Filters - were a welcome addition to the dinner group along with Brian Shetron of HMSHost-CM and Justin Senkbeil of CompostNOW.

Thank you Sarah Martell of Innovia Films for hosting the dinner.

The second day began at Joseph A. Grier Academy, a Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools elementary school, with a focus on their impressive recycling practices. It was empowering to witness the staff's engagement, excellent educational signage and the painted recycling dumpster.

Grier Academy Paint-A-Can
recycling dumpster
Grier Academy participated in the 2014 Paint-A-Can Contest and their recycling eight-yard dumpster was fantastic! The 2014 Paint-A-Can Video is an excellent contest overview along with featuring the winners. Here is the formal contest description:
Elementary, middle and high schools throughout the County are participating in an innovative program that rewards schools for thinking creatively about the subject of recycling.Registered teams are provided with everything they need to work with their students to design and then paint a recycling-themed landscape on their exterior recycling containers. Five lucky schools will rise to the top and take home their shares of the $12,500 bounty.  
Coca Cola Bottling, Republic Services, ReCommunity, Sherwin Williams and Keep Mecklenburg Beautiful, want to thank all the participants for their excellent, innovative entries in the 2014 Paint A Can contest.
Next on the agenda was a meeting with the Charlotte professional sporting event facility owners | managers.The meeting purpose was to introduce the group to Ei pilots in the development stage and garnering interest to participate in template creation. 

Devin Hatley, UNC Charlotte environmental educator & volunteer coordinator, attended the meeting and shared the new Jerry Richardson Stadium's first season zero waste success. The Zero Waste initiative recognized for outstanding collaboration and partnership is an excellent overview of how UNC staff, students and foodservice provider Chartwells worked in unison to achieve zero waste success. 

Thank you to The Charlotte Knights for hosting the great meeting. Mark McKinnon, Charlotte Knights director of stadium operations, was enthusiastic to explore working together once the 2014 season ends in September. The timing is perfect for an October Ei Charlotte visit!

Mall tours were on the afternoon agenda as Ei Partners KES COO Matt Hupp and diversion manager Micah Beck met the team at Carolina Place, a General Growth Properties mall. Jake Wilson - MCG environmental supervisor, joined the Ei Team for lunch at Harper's along with touring the recently implemented BOH food waste collection for compost program. Thank you Rick Lombardo of Natur-Tec for hosting the delicious and productive lunch.

A happy server scraping dishes into
the compost bin @ Harper's
As an EPA Scaling Up Compost in Charlotte Grant participant, Carolina Place receives support from the Grant Team along with food waste compost program upfront costs covered under the Grant. In April the Grant Team visited Charlotte for three days to educate foodservice operators on the Grant and recruit participation. The ZWA Blog article, Charlotte Focuses on Food Waste with EPA Grant Support, chronicles the April Grant Team visit. Ei is a sub-grantee while Ei Strategic Ally The Sustainable Packaging Coalition is the grantee. 

Carolina Place's two seated dining restaurants, Harper's and McAliister's Deli, are separating prep food waste along with plate scrapings for collection for compost. It was thrilling to witness the Harper's staff enthusiasm to separate food waste for compost.

Jake Wilson (MCG), Jim Lanier (Earth
Farms) & Matt Hupp (KES)
Next stop was SouthPark Mall to tour the plastic film recycling practices in-place. Due to corporate reorganization within the Simon sustainability department, SouthPark Mall will delay joining the EPA Grant program until the fall.

A busy day ended with an Ei | KES strategy session to develop an action plan through year end. An excellent dinner followed at Rooster's where conversation remained food waste-oriented, when not discussing our love of well-prepared food!

The final day began with a powerful MCG | Ei brainstorming session. In addition to Laurette and her team, Jeff Smithberger - MCG director, solid waste - joined the session as an invaluable contributor to the vibrant discussions. Outcome: 1> recap call with Holly and Laurette and 2> potential October Ei visit for introductory meetings with the City of Charlotte and local sustainability | hospitality organizations.

The Charlotte visit ended with a lovely lunch at the Charlotte Airport compliments of HMSHost. Eric Dyer met earlier with Brian Shetron of HMSHost to quantify the GLF airport-wide installation within the Ei Airborne Kitchen Grease, a proactive approach, Initiative. Thank you Brian for hosting a fabulous lunch.

recycling bins at Grier Academy
For new Ei Partner Rick Lombardo of Natur-Tec, the Charlotte visit was an inaugural Ei adventure! It was lovely welcoming Rick into the Ei family and learning another "foodie" is part of the team. Next week Rick travels to Atlanta for his second adventure at the August 8 pre-season Atlanta Falcons game.

For a pictorial recap of busy, productive and fun Charlotte trip, visit the Ei FB album, July | August 2014 Ei Charlotte Visit.

The four-hour return drive was perfect to recap the visit and strategize on action plans. Before hitting the Georgia state line, the brand new Sustainable Materials ACTION Team was grounded with its name, scope, activities and members. Sarah serves as the SMC Chair and Kim joined the committee from her back seat position. 

Next Friday morning SMC members tour Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport - the busiest airport in the world AND the SFCI - Airport Pilot! - concessionaire operations.

YES, it was a productive visit on many levels, impacting Charlotte and beyond.