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Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Total Materials Management Approach

Within Elemental Impact's (Ei) Recycling Refinement platform, a Total Materials Management Approach - evaluating the entire materials stream in one cost / revenue center- is used. The stated objective is true zero waste with a strong focus on ultimate material destination and the remaining "trash" within the stream. Materials with solid end markets (e.g. aluminum, mixed paper, certain plastics) subsidize more challenging streams generated in operations.

Ei Chair Scott Seydel @ MRF
Until recently zero waste measurement was quantified as diversion rates from the landfill without final destination consideration. Known for high levels of contamination, single-stream recycling - often the only recycling option available for the corporate community - results in a high percentage of recyclable items landfill destined. Thus, “true recycling rates” are often inflated with single-stream recycling programs.

Note effective single-stream MRF – material recovery facilities – separation is limited by the contamination in the delivered material. Published reports substantiate curbside single-recycling programs often contain significant contaminates, which may then contaminate the corporate recycling delivered to the MRF.

The Source-Separated Materials Recycling Template (S-SMRT) targets moderate material generators whose current recycling option is single-stream recycling. Grounded in on-site material source-separation and baling, the S-SMRT is developing a city-wide material recovery template with Atlanta serving as the pilot city.

When evaluating recycling programs, organizations generally prepare a business case or cost-benefit analysis to ensure there is a reasonable ROI – return on investment – for the particular material stream. Hard-to-recycle items or those with little to no ROI are landfill destined without further consideration. 

S-SMRT epitomizes a common Ei phrase:
Ei is a creator, an incubator.
Ei determines what could be done that is not being done and gets it done.
Ei brings the possible out of impossible.
Ei identifies pioneers and creates heroes.

In simplistic terms, S-SMRT encompasses the Total Material Management Approach with the following steps:

GWCC Orwak baler - the
workhorse in the S-SRMT
  • Generators source-separate material on-site and compact into mini bales.
  • Hauler collects bales for transport to the recycling center.
  • Recycling center associates track material received by type | generator, re-bale into standard sized bales, and store in a tractor trailer by material type until full.
  • Hauler sells material directly to a manufacturing | recycling end destination and pays rebates to generators based on their respective percentage of the load sold.
  • Ei oversees the system to ensure the entire value chain makes a reasonable profit.
Financial template success is grounded in two factors: CLEAN MATERIAL & VOLUME. The template tagline is:

Contamination is a Mistake!

Ei Partner M-PASS Environmental serves as the S-SMRT hauler and intends to create a turnkey option for the next tier of template pioneers. With M-PASS associates baling the material there is strong control over the quality of material sent to the recycling center.

S-SMRT is an evolutionary process. The 2011 Atlanta Airport milk jug recycling pilot, initiated by Ei Partner HMSHost, served as the early template catalyst. The ZWA Blog article, Milk Jugs Recycled at the Atlanta Airport, gave an overview of the S-SMRT first step.

Louis Herrera educating
Matt Hupp on plastic film @ CM
In 2012, the Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) - Shopping Mall Pilot at Concord Mills launched the first shopping mall plastic film recycling pilot; the second step in the template foundation. Ei Partner Louis Herrera of Hilex Poly was the visionary and plastic film educator during the pilot development. The ZWA Blog article, ACTION: Theme for the SFCI Shopping Mall Pilot, announced the plastic film recycling pilot.

A third significant template step was the Fresh Point ATL (FPA) plastic film recycling pilot. In the ZWA Blog article, Plastic Film Recycling: A New Frontier, the plastic film recycling history, facts and the FPA pilot were detailed. Ei's first directed video, Ei Plastic Film Recycling Pilot at FreshPoint ATL, debuted in the ZWA Blog article, Plastic Film Recycling Template Video Published.

When the Georgia World Congress Center joined the S-SMRT in spring 2014, the template immediately expanded beyond plastic film to total materials - a HUGE fourth step in template development. 

The June Atlanta Ei Partner Tours were designed as a two-day experiential strategy session for further template development. Local end market destinations Novelis and Pratt Industries hosted the first tours day. Ei Partner Novelis - the world's largest aluminum manufacturer - has an aluminum recycling plant less than 100 miles from Atlanta.

Ei Partners ready to tour
the Novelis recycling plant
On the second day tours Tim Trefzer, GWCC director of sustainability, welcomed the Ei Partners to the GWCC for a presentation of successes to date, including the 2013 "Greenest" Final Four hosted at the Georgia Dome. A back-of-house tour of recycling practices in-place followed the formal presentation. 

Michael Cheyne, Atlanta Airport director of asset management and sustainability, and Scott Jenkins, New Falcons Stadium general manager, joined the lunch hosted by NatureWorks and gave invigorating updates. Note the Atlanta Airport serves as the SFCI - Airport Pilot and the Georgia Dome is the SFCI - Event Venue Pilot.

The IMPACT Blog article, Atlanta Ei Partner Tours, chronicles the powerful tours.

Novelis is the Atlanta Falcons recycling partner and key to S-SMRT success. Due to contamination levels at the local MRF aluminum generated at the Georgia Dome (30,000+ aluminum beer bottles at a Falcons home game) does not meet Novelis aluminum quality standards. With their ambitious 80% recycled content goal, Novelis is "hungry" for clean aluminum and a strong S-SMRT partner.

The VERY first aluminum
baled at the GWCC
With clean material addressed, the volume is achieved through expanding template pioneers to a second tier, followed by additional tiers. Cindy Jackson, Georgia Tech recycling & waste director, attended the Atlanta Ei Partner Tours and is ready for the template business case. 

Ei Partner Keter Environmental Services holds the waste & recycling contracts for three Class A Atlanta malls. The intent is for the three malls to join the S-SMRT as template pioneers in early 2015.

Invitations to additional template pioneers - all prominent industry leaders - are slated for early 2015.

For a S-SMRT work-in-progress overview, visit the following ZWA Blog articles:
Ei Team @ GA Dome to
scout material @ a Falcons game
The S-SMRT website page lists the stellar Ei Team comprised of Lead Pioneers, Infrastructure and End Market Partners.

With an initial focus on the high value materials - aluminum, mixed paper and certain plastics, the S-SMRT is destined to generate profit for participates. These profits are designated to cover costs associated with challenging material streams such as food waste.

Synergistic in timing, the SFCI 2014 | 2015 stated focus is post-consumer food waste. The ZWA Blog article, SFCI targets post-consumer food waste, announces the focus.

M-PASS Lorraine White
"picking the bowl" for food waste
Back-of-the-house (pre-consumer) food waste industry practices were perfected by early zero waste pioneers. Front-of-the-house (post-consumer) food waste remains a recycling frontier for two main reasons: 1> necessary shift in consumer-facing packaging to create clean food waste streams and 2> consumer responsibility for food waste disposal. 

S-SMRT profit is earmarked to cover the expense of implementing a post-consumer food waste collection program at pioneer facilities with foodservice operations. Anticipated program costs include shifting to compostable food & beverage packaging, purchasing or modifying existing collection bins, recycling station signage, and an employee training system.

Once food waste is addressed, the game plan is to evaluate remaining trash and work within the supply chain for solutions. Supply chain engagement is critical to achieving true zero waste. The ZWA Blog article, Supply Chain Critical to Zero Waste Success, introduces the supply chain role in successful recycling programs along with solid examples.

A Total Materials Management Approach to recycling programs is a journey well on its path. Yet challenges abound for the Ei Team to unravel into success. Stay tuned for tales from the adventure!

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