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Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Zero Waste Makes Good Business Sense

As the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) official media partner, Elemental Impact (Ei) was prominent at the Fourth Annual National Zero Waste Conference hosted in Los Angeles May 6 & 7.  Sustainability leaders - including Ei Partners, Strategic Allies, Advisory Council Members & Pals - traveled from across the nation to learn, share and network with the Stars of Zero Waste.

Source-separation in action
at EFP
The ZWA Blog article, Stellar conference program highlights the "Stars of Zero Waste," is a comprehensive overview of the impressive program; the Business NOT as Usual: fine-tuning the zero waste journey, article chronicles the conference's impressive plenary sessions.

Arriving early for the conference, Ei Founder Holly Elmore met with Earth Friendly Products (EFP) Vice-President Sustainability and Education Nadereh Afsharmanesh for a tour of their zero waste-certified Garden Grove plant. Each of the five EFP plants across the nation are zero waste-certified via the USZWBC Zero Waste Certification Program (ZWCP). 

At EFP ALL materials are source-separated and bundled for recycling collection; EFP does not participate in single-stream recycling. In addition to larger, traditional items (cardboard, various plastics, & paper,) smaller, unique items (staples, toilet paper rolls & latex gloves) are separated by employees during daily operations for recycling collection. It was an empowering tour!

Christy (on left) with industry friends
Ei Advisory Council Member Christy Cook, Sodexo senior manager sustainability deployment and field support, along with four Sodexo sustainability coordinators, attended the conference. As first-time attendees, four of the five Sodexo team associates attended the pre-conference USZWBC Zero Waste Business Associate Scorecard Workshop. According to Christy, an immediate action item was a right-sizing analysis for waste & recycling bins as programs evolve. By using "right size" bins, waste | recycling collection charges are minimized.

Ei Partner CleanRiver Recycling Solutions (CRS) sponsored the workshop and CRS Founder & CEO Bruce Buchan presented on Zero Waste - The Three C's Approach. The ZWA Blog article, Evolution of the Three R's, introduced the Three C's: Culture, Communication, Collection, via a feature of Ricoh Electronics' presentation on the Five R's at the 2012 USZWBC Conference.

Following the workshop, the afternoon Loyola Marymount University Campus Sustainability, Comprehensive Recycling, Food Waste Diversion Tour was a walking visit of university zero waste practices-in-action.

Tom Lembo (CRS) finishes his
intro w/ Holly admiring him
Rounding out the pre-conference activities was the speaker | sponsor dinner where the "program" was self-introductions featuring the motivation for zero waste passion. It was a perfect venue for the zero waste stars to reconnect or meet via a personal story, many citing a grandparent's influence.

The timing was perfect for Title Sponsor LA Sanitation to host the National Zero Waste Conference. With the Solid Waste Integrated Resources Plan under development, LA is transitioning to a new waste and recycling system for all businesses and large apartment complexes. 

As mentioned above, the Business NOT as Usual: fine-tuning the zero waste journey  article gives a synopsis of the conference opening plenary sessions. Honorable Mayor Eric Garcetti, City of Los Angeles gave a powerful Welcome followed by the plenary panel Discover the Zero Waste Stars of LA. Matt Peterson, LA chief sustainability officer, closed the LA-dedicated morning sessions with his keynote presentation on The Sustainable City pLAn: Transforming LA: Environment, Economy & Equity.

The first-day conference afternoon program included two concurrent break-out session series featuring a wide range of topics. In the first series, Holly moderated the Source-Separation Maximizes Material Value panel including Ei Partner Rick Lombardo, Natur-Tec director of business development - North America, Ei Supporter Tim Trefzer, Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) director of sustainability, and Nadereh with EFP.

Rick with his presentation props
Photo courtesy of  Scott Lutocka
After Holly's opening remarks, Rick led the panel with a presentation on the important role source-separation plays in maintaining material value in corporate operations. Intertwined within general education on materials in landfills, single-stream recycling, and overall source-separation, Rick focused on separating food waste for compost collection. 

Food waste is a valuable resource when collected for compost yet a major contaminant in waste streams, often rendering recyclable material landfill bound. In addition, food waste decomposing in a waste compactor smells, often requiring more frequent pulls to the landfill than justified by the tonnage. Thus, higher waste hauling charges are incurred.

Rick closed his presentation with dialogue on the state of our soils and the role compost plays in rebuilding soils. As reinforced by Kathy Kellogg of Kellogg Garden Products in her plenary panel presentation, Rick emphasized our abused soils are often not capable of producing nutrient-rich fruits & vegetables. Compost - nutritious food for the soil microbial communities - is necessary for rebuilding soils; healthy soils produce nutrient-rich foods for human and animal consumption.

Next Tim opened his excellent presentation with an overview of the facilities under the state-owned GWCCA umbrella: 
Tim during pre-conference
dinner introductions
Photo courtesy of Scott Lutocka
As the Lead Pioneer in Ei's Source-Separated Material Recycling Template, the Georgia Dome is committed to source-separating materials generated at Falcons games and other stadium events. The ZWA Blog article, Remember: if it was easy, it would already be done!, is an update on template pilot progress-to-date.

Southern Roots, operated by Levy Restaurants, opened in early 2015 at the GWCC as a zero waste restaurant concept. With compostable packaging essential to post-consumer food waste collection, Tim requested Ei to educate the Levy staff on compostable packaging. 

First source-separate bale
@ Georgia Dome
On April 8, the Ei SMAT - Sustainable Materials ACTION Team, presented a two-hour Compostable Packaging Education Session to the Levy GWCC team. Rick took a leadership role within SMAT during the session preparation and inaugural presentation. The ZWA Blog article, Compostable F&B Packaging: essential to zero waste programs and soils rebuilding, introduces the SMAT education session.

Within his presentation, Tim addressed the zero waste challenges at large event facilities: 
  • Ever-changing events; only consistent events are Falcons games.
  • Limitations within service provider contracts (e.g. janitorial services).
  • Limitations within third party contracts - the conference | meeting planner contracts with a convention services company to stage the event and clean-up afterwards.
  • Impact of internal politics.
The waste generated at large events is astounding. Industry pioneers like the GWCC are navigating event challenges to create zero waste practices at convention centers and event facilities. Financial motivation will ground success: 1> on-site material source-separation is proven to generate profits at large facilities and 2> facility zero waste practices is often included in event RFP (request for proposal) criteria.

Naderah during her presentation
Nadereh was the final presenter on the panel with the EFP zero waste story. Education was a predominant theme along with infiltrating zero waste into the corporate culture. During the early days, Nadereh got up-close and personal with EFP waste via her own spontaneous literal dumpster dive. The discoveries spurred Nadereh into action-mode with shifts in purchasing to prevent trash and creation of source-separation practices throughout their five plants. Source-separation is a cost-saving endeavor for EFP.

Employee engagement is key to success. Frequent fifteen-minute education sessions are held to reinforce practices and maintain open dialogue. In addition to zero waste, EFP educates and promotes healthy lifestyles. Complimentary fresh fruit is available in plant break rooms and employees may enjoy their lunch in the on-site fruit, vegetable and flower garden.

Scott with Jeff Clark of the
National Restaurant Association
In the second breakout session, Ei Pal Scott Lutocka of Piazza Produce presented on the Solutions for Organics Diversion panel. In his Conquering the Challenges & Barriers to Commercial Compost presentation, Scott emphasized three main points for successful food waste collection programs:

  1. Conduct a waste audit to understand the amount of compostable materials generated.
  2. Identify legal or permitting issues to resolve or obtain.
  3. Locate a commercial food waste hauling vendor or create an alternative solution if none operate in your vicinity.
Ei Partner Tom Lembo of CRS spoke on the Pieces of Zero: Critical components for a successful Zero Waste program breakout session on the Zero Waste: The 3 C Approach. Refer to the article section on pre-conference workshops where The 3 C Approach is further discussed.

On the Supporting Actors: The critical role nonprofits can play in your Zero Waste plan breakout panel, Ei Strategic Ally Pat Spencer, Cork Forest Conservation Alliance - Cork ReHarvest executive director, spoke on their Natural Cork Recycling Program. In 2014, 100 tons (21 million corks) were collected through their expanding program.

Holly & friends @ reception
Photo courtesy of Scott Lutocka
A lovely reception completed the first-day conference program with conversations continuing in a casual setting. Long-time friends reunited and new acquaintances became friends over a glass of wine and delicious food. In true Ei-style, a group of eighteen Ei Pals gathered for a nice dinner at a local restaurant.

In the afternoon concurrent breakout panels, Holly moderated the Zero-Waste at Multi-Tenant Properties panel. Among the multitude of zero waste challenges for multi-tenant facilities, the most common are 1> material generators do not control their waste | recycling collection and hauling, 2> landlord | tenant contractual obligations, 3> service provider contract provisions, 4> franchisee | franchiser contract terms (generally, consumer-facing food & beverage packaging related) and 5> space constraints.

Ei Partner Keter Environmental Services Chief Operating Officer Matt Hupp presented on the Landord and Tenant Perspective. During his tenure as the Director of Waste and Recycling Services at Simon Property Group, Matt was responsible for waste and recycling operations at over 300 shopping malls in 41 states. While in the position, Matt developed programs that increased diversion rates and operational efficiencies while decreasing overall program costs.

Matt during his presentation
At Keter Matt oversees the waste and recycling management for over 200 large retail, office, and mixed-use projects across the country. Committed to minimizing landfill-destined compactor pulls, Keter implements zero waste practices at managed properties where feasible. For malls, plastic film recycling and food waste collection for compost are the main material focus areas; in general, cardboard is separated as standard operating practice.

In his presentation, Matt listed tenant and landlord challenges. Per Matt, top tenant challenges are:  
  • Confusion on what is recyclable
  • Maximizing what is collected in a minimum amount of space
  • Lack of internal training
  • High turnover
  • Lack of control with services
Main landlord challenges are:
  • Waste | recycling haulers
  • Logistics | property layout
  • Multiple streams and use types: OCC (old corrugated cardboard), various plastics, and food waste 
  • Back-of-house not controlled
  • Tenant training and compliance
After a success story example, Matt emphasized tenant | employee education and use of clear, multi-lingual and visually oriented signage at the waste and recycling collection areas. Matt finished with the important role metrics reporting and calculating the cost-savings plays in successful zero waste programs.

Sue at podium
Following Matt, USZWBC President Sue Beets with SBM Site Services presented on SBM Management Services: Delivering More Than Cleaning and gave the service contractor's perspective. With more than 21 years of solid waste management and recycling experience, Sue has directly overseen more than 1.071 billion pounds of material recycled in her career. SBM provides janitorial services for 350 million square feet in 43 states, three countries and employs 7,000 individuals. In 2014, SBM documented $3.4 million in client cost-savings from zero waste programs.

A common thread across the board is the importance of ongoing employee training along with clear, multi-lingual and visually oriented signage at the waste and recycling collection areas. Sue advises to keep signage simple so building occupants may identify correct bins within seconds. Consistent color coding of signs and bins is another key to effective zero waste programs.

Throughout her presentation, Sue emphasized the role contract provisions play in SBM's ability to implement successful recycling programs at client facilities. The final Legal Provisions slide was the perfect segue to Ei General Counsel Greg Chafee's, a partner at Thompson Hine, Contract Provisions: A New Zero Waste Resource presentation.

In his slides, Greg gave an overview of three main contract areas for a multi-tenant facility: 1> buildings and facilities (landlord | tenant leases), 2> janitorial services and 3> waste hauling and recycling. In each category, Greg gave specific terms to address in the respective contracts along with examples where provisions supported zero waste practices. 

Matt & Greg enjoying the reception
In addition, Greg listed items to include in the RFP (request for proposal) and bid specification process. "One size does NOT fit all" was a strong point and Greg detailed areas to customize within a waste and recycling hauling contract to optimize cost-savings while maximizing recycling.

The closing slide "Zero Waste Requires Teamwork" epitomized the underlying theme of the panel with New Atlanta Stadium General Manager Scott Jenkin's quote:
 “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.”
At the November 2014 Ei Partner Meeting, Greg presented on the role legal provisions play in establishing sustainable best practices. The ZWA Blog article, Contract provisions require teamwork necessary for zero waste success, announces Ei's foray into educating on contract provisions with Greg taking the leadership role.

KB & Rick at dinner
Photo courtesy of  Scott Lutocka
In a concurrent session, Ei Pal KB Kleckner, Frontline Industrial Consulting president, presented on the Making Zero Waste Happen: Changing Behavior for Total Participation panel moderated by Emily DeCremer, USZWBC zero waste associate. During his tenure as Mohawk Industries corporate vice-president, KB was the key executive leading sixteen manufacturing sites to “Mohawk Certified Zero Waste to Landfill.” 

KB made four major points in his Leading Zero Waste to Landfill to Reality on the Frontlines presentation: 
  1. Sustainability is integral to business and environmental success …and fuels financial success!
  2. Rigorous leadership results in focus, follow-up, innovation, and culture evolution.
  3. Culture is key to instilling common sustainability values, mission, purpose, and character. 
  4. Sustainability must be "personal," getting to the spirit of each person. 
Cradle to Cradle Products Innovation Institute President Bridgett Luther presented on the Complement your Zero Waste Efforts with Additional Certifications panel during the afternoon breakout sessions. In her previous job as director of the California Department of Conservation - appointed by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2005 - Bridgett was keenly aware of the gap between the collection of millions of tons of recycled cans and bottles and their actual reuse.

Holly with her camera
Photo courtesy of Scott Lutocka
The Cradle to Cradle Certified Products (CCCP) program goes beyond traditional zero waste efforts and ensures products are designed for a perpetual life cycle, via reuse or redesign into another valuable product. Waste is a foreign concept within the Cradle to Cradle product design.

Within the CCCP program, product health is measured in accordance with five standards: 1> material health, 2> material reutilization, 3> renewable energy, 4> water stewardship and 5> social fairness. Bridget emphasized the CCCP standard is based on continuous improvement - getting started at BASIC is just the first step in getting to amazing.

Platforms like Cradle to Cradle, Circular Economy and Biomimicry catapult the global economy beyond zero waste to a World Without Waste. The CCCP is a MAJOR step towards educating global leaders product design is the foundation for necessary shifts in "business as usual."

As documented in the Business NOT as usual: fine-tuning the zero waste journey article, the conference closed with an empowering Our World Without Waste: The Global Crisis Suggests New Opportunities plenary panel.

The USZWBC Four-Year Club includes a handful of folks who attended each of the four USZWBC Conferences. Pictured from left to right: Randy Van Winkle (SBM), Ryan McMullan (Toyota), Stephanie Barger (USZWBC), Gary Liss (Gary Liss & Associates), Holly Elmore (Elemental Impact), Sue Beets (SBM) & Scott Lutocka (Piazza Produce). Rick Anthony and Bruce Buchan were not available for the photo.

Ei Strategic Allies Susan Collins, Container Recycling Institute executive director, and Jordan Figeiredo, End Food Waste founder, along with Ei Partner Sarah Martinez, Eco-Products sustainability maven, were prominent conference attendees.

The day following the conference, Marialyce Pederson,The Walt Disney Company senior representative, Disney Corporate Citizenship - Environment & Conservation, treated Holly to a tour of the Disney Burbank Studios. It was inspiring to see the food waste compactor in the dining facility loading area!

For a pictorial recap of the conference, visit the comprehensive Ei FB album, 2015 National Zero Waste Conference - "The Stars of Zero Waste." Thank you Scott Lutocka for your invaluable teamwork documenting the conference and contributing many of the album photos. 

Food waste compactor
@ Disney Burbank Studios
Congratulations to Stephanie Barger, Emily DeCremer and the USZWBC Board, staff and volunteers on an excellent conference!

Throughout the presentations, a common theme emerged: zero waste makes good business sense. Beyond cost-savings and revenue generation, organizations enjoy a multitude of intangible benefits including honors | awards, improved employee morale, answering consumer demands and valuable marketing | public relations opportunities.

... remember beyond zero waste is a World Without Waste!


  1. I am so happy to read that there are organizations and events which are connected with the reducing of the waste and especially of the plastic waste. Thank you a lot for sharing this interesting article!

    1. Thank you Florence! It is inspiring to receive comments like yours. The blog is full of many similar articles on waste reduction and material recovery. Have a lovely weekend!

  2. I do admire these organizations for the great work they do. We do need to be more conscious of all the waste pollution problems in order to change the situation and to sustain our environment.