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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Atlanta Airport's Leadership Role in Compostable Food & Beverage Packaging

In 2011, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) - the busiest airport in the world - accepted the invitation to serve as Elemental Impact's (Ei) Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) Airport Pilot. Co-Chaired by Ei Chair Scott Seydel and Doug Kunnemann of NatureWorks, the SFCI works with industry pioneers on tackling the challenges inherent within food court sustainability endeavors.

SFCI Mission: To bring zero waste initiatives to food courts and develop industry sustainable best practices for back-of-the-house and front-of-the-house operations

With impeccable timing, the ATL was in the midst of the Request for Proposals for the entire airport foodservice operations. Michael Cheyne, ATL director of asset management & sustainability, made the bold, courageous and successful move to include the following provision in the RFP: 

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.
The ZWA Blog article, Atlanta Airport Makes a Bold Sustainable Statement, announces the groundbreaking compostable packaging provision in the ten-year airport concessionaire contracts.

one of the many SFCI -ATL
Working closely with Michael and his ATL associates, the SFCI Team developed the ATL Compostable Foodservice Ware Packet to provide clear, concise information:
  1. To allow concessionaires to satisfy the contract provisions stipulated in the ATL concessions contract; and
  2. To ensure effective ongoing communication with product manufacturers and distributors.
After the introduction, an overview of document and the contract provision language, the fact sheet explains WHY the contract provision is important followed by WHAT is compostable packaging. HOW to meet the provision is the final copy in the fact sheet.  

The resources section lists industry non-profits and trade associations with contact information and website links. The frequently asked question section dives deeper into industry practices with answers to common queries.

The packet defines the ATL policy for meeting the contract provision. For additional details, visit the ZWA Blog article Compostable Packaging Info Packet and | or download the packet on the Ei website.

Several months after publication the packet was amended to include specific copy on "exemptions and exclusions." The ZWA Blog article, Exemptions | Exclusions Added to Atlanta Airport Info Packetis an overview of the packet revision along with the new copy.

Liza Milagro with SFCI Co-Chair
Doug Kunnemann
Materials Usage Forms are in final draft form and are designed to assist the airport with monitoring compliance with the contract provision.

With the ATL concessionaire contracts in the midst of an 18-month implementation process, the SFCI Team work was complete at this stage. During the contract implementation time frame, concessionaires were operating in a grace period for complying with the contract provision. 

In spring 2013, Liza Milagro joined the ATL team as zero waste coordinator and later was promoted to senior sustainability planner. 

Vendor Fair sign in
ATL atrium
As of this article publication, the contract roll-out period is complete and Liza is responsible for activating the ATL compostable packaging contract provision. On October 22 ATL hosted the greeningATL SFCI Vendor Fair to facilitate program roll-out assistance. Well attended by concessionaires, the fair's vendors educated the operators on the ample packaging options available to meet the contract provision.

During her presentation, Liza announced the contract provision grace period ends with a tiered approach:  
  • January 15, 2015, for non-branded food and beverage packaging
  • Summer 2015, for branded food and beverage packaging to allow for printing conversion

Liza educated on New Standards in Sustainability and how third-party certifications provide reliability, accountability and compliance with the ATL contract provision. Biodegradable Products Institute (BPI) compostable certification is the accepted industry standard for food & beverage packaging and is required by ATL to meet the contract provision.

To meet the ATL sustainability goals, Liza listed five components for success:
The vendors pose with Liza
  1. Education - inform ALL key stakeholders (consumers, generators, tenants & vendors)
  2. Facilitate - provide tenants with program roll-out assistance
  3. Compliance - ensure all ATL tenants have clear instructions pertaining to requirements and expectations; greeningATL BPI Compliance Manual & a checklist | summary
  4. Alignment with Sustainable Management Plant & ATL Strategic Plan - achieve zero waste (90% diversion) by 2020 by sanitizing and organizing the waste stream in preparation for Green Acres (a Request for Qualifications is in-process for the on-airport energy & recycling facility) 
  5. Celebrate!!!
In action mode, the next steps listed in Liza's PPT presentation include:
  1. Formal concessionaire notification of contract provision activation
  2. American Association of Airport Executives bi-monthly Airport Magazine article on SFCI campus-wide success (Note: Michael Cheyne provides an asset management department article for each publication)
  3. Metrics platform for measuring success
  4. Accountability matrix
  5. Press release | conference
Ken, Liza & Rick at end of  the
SFCI Vendor Fair
The SFCI Team was well represented at the vendor fair by Ken Fraser with Eco-Products and Rick Lombardo with Natur-Bag, who also serve on SMAT - the Sustainable Materials ACTION Team. Ei's key role in the ATL contract provision activation is evident in the SFCI Vendor Directory. The directory opening page highlights the SCFI and Ei is featured on the inside back cover.

Liza's PPT presentation along with the SFCI Vendor Fair Program Directory are available on the SFCI Vendor Fair webpage.

The SFCI Team, supported by SMAT, provides industry expertise and support to Liza and her team during the contract provision compliance process. In July 2014, the SFCI announced a post-consumer food waste focus for 2014 | 2015. The ZWA Blog article, SFCI targets post-consumer food waste, announces the focus and gives an update on food waste initiatives at each of the three pilots: SFCI - ATLSFCI - Georgia Dome and SFCI - Concord Mills.

As an industry leader, the Atlanta Airport is establishing best practices, supported by program development, for post-consumer food waste at airports and beyond. Kudos to Liza Milagro for her ingenuity, tenacity and perseverance as she navigates internal and external challenges for implementing food waste collection systems at the busiest airport in the world!

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