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Monday, October 12, 2015

SC ripe for food recovery

On October 6 the South Carolina (SC) Department of Commerce (SCDC) hosted the Upstate Food Recovery Event in Greenville. Prominent industry leaders shared their impressive food recovery practices in-place, along with goals for further reducing, donating and composting food waste.

After welcome and introductions, SCDC Recycling Development Coordinator Anna Lange educated on the state resources available for food recovery programs. A speed networking session followed to set the stage for lively dialogue within the powerful morning and afternoon presentations.

Kim at podium
Publix Recycling & Solid Waste Manager Kim Brunson led the Solutions for Commercial Food Recovery Panel with an empowering session. An industry leader, Publix has food waste collection for compost or animal feed programs in 607 of their 1100 stores. With 180,000 associates and 11 food waste vendors, consistent corporate training is key to Publix's success. The program uses 95 gallon bins with no pest attraction.

In partnership with Feeding America, Publix donates food no longer meeting their high quality standards. Supporting local communities is a core Publix value; an event attendee announced Publix Super Markets Charities donated $100,000 to aid in the recent SC flood devastation.

Responding to a question, Kim shared the intricacies of the Publix plastic bag | film and expanded polystyrene (foam: egg cartons, food containers etc.) programs. With dedicated staff to ensure a clean recycling stream and significant space to accumulate material in salable quantities required, the programs are an investment for Publix. Note foam and plastic bags | film are not accepted in most single-stream recycling programs offered by municipalities. 

A BIG kudos to Publix for caring, investing and providing consumer recycling options - it is a valuable gift to local communities.

According to Loaves and Fishes (L&F) Executive Director Paulette Dunn there are 800,000 food insecure residents in SC. As a food rescue non-profit, L&F works with food waste generators, such as Publix, to collect edible food and deliver it to shelters, church pantries & other organizations feeding the insecure population. L&F serves as a transportation liaison with no warehouse or storage facility.

Following Paulette, Divergent Energy Director of Business Development Scott Harke presented on their onsite food waste solutions with examples of installed systems.

Solutions for Food Recovery Panel
Martin Royaards with Michelin completed the panel with his presentation on their impressive zero waste commitment. In 2013 Michelin replaced expanded polystyrene with compostable foodservice products in the corporate dining facility and set the stage for post-consumer food waste collection; the pilot inaugurated with Atlas Organics in 2014 produces 2.5 tons of food waste per month collected for compost.

Michelin's success is grounded in a solid employee education program including excellent signage for proper disposal. Perceiving zero waste as an evolutionary process is an important ingredient to Michelin achieving their goals.

As the attendees finished the delicious lunch served with BPI Certified Compostable plates and flatware, Elemental Impact Founder & CEO Holly Elmore gave the keynote presentation. Beginning with a brief Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) history, Holly emphasized current post-consumer food waste work within the Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) Pilots. 

With education critical to success, the Ei SMAT - Sustainable Materials ACTION Team, produced a two-hour Compostable Food & Beverage Packaging Session for Levy Restaurants requested by the Georgia World Congress Center Authority; the Georgia Dome serves as the SFCI - Event Venue Pilot. The ZWA Blog article, Compostable F&B Packaging: integral to zero waste programs and soil rebuilding, summarizes the excellent April 8 session.

The SFCI - Annual Event Afternoon in the Country (AITC) zero food waste journey was a presentation focus. With meticulous planning, the 15th Annual AITC on November 8 is staged for zero food waste complete with on-site food waste composting and a donation program complements of Second Helpings. The ZWA Blog article, Afternoon in the Country embarks on zero food waste journey, announces the SFCI Pilot; the Atlanta Food Waste Heroes: the journey continues …, article ties the SFCI – AITC into Atlanta’s strong food waste history and updates the action plan in-progress.

Holly's presentation ended with the vital role food waste collection for compost plays in rebuilding our soils. Healthy soils produce nutritious, delicious food, retain | filter water and prevent excessive erosion. Holly's PPT presentation is available for download on the Ei Speaking Engagements page.

In the afternoon panel, Mike McGirr with Feed & Seed gave an empowering presentation on the maverick market intended to evolve SC (& beyond) agriculture and food system structure. Here is formal Feed & Seed copy:
Mike at podium
Feed & Seed is a model private-public partnership devoted to training in commerce of regionally produced farm products. It will serve as an “incubator” for food-system businesses and consortium efforts. This vision of a culinary marketplace for sustainably produced, regional agricultural productivity and its secondary processing, capitalizes on existing business and public structures, while paving the way for future innovation and entrepreneurship.
Atlas Organics completed the panel with two presentations: 1> Hauling Best Practices and 2> Compost Facility.

Most important was the closing discussion on next proactive steps facilitated by Chantal Fryer, SCDC senior manager recycling development. Throughout the powerful dialogue a common theme emerged: Collaboration among the private sector, local, state & federal government, non-profits, trade associations, and higher education institutions is essential to expand food recovery.

Ei has a longstanding history with SC government and the industry. In August 2011 the SC Hospitality Association (SCHA) brought a contingent of Board members, business association executives and City of Columbia staff and councilman to Atlanta for a ZWZ tour. The ZWA Blog article, ATL ZWZ Team Hosts SC Hospitality Tour, gives an overview of the tour, documenting the strong food recovery enthusiasm.

SC Nov 2011 tour group photo
With the SC operators on-board, the SCHA came to Atlanta in November 2011 for a second tour focused on the commercial food waste composting destination. The November contingent consisted of trade association | non-profit executives, city & state officials along with two Columbia hotel associates. From Atlanta, EPA Region IV and GA Department of Natural Resources Sustainability Division staff joined the Ei-hosted tour and meetings to share their experiences in the ZWZ program development. The ZWA Blog article, An Encore ZWZ Performance, documents the tour.

Fertile seeds planted in 2011 are germinating with the SC Department of Commerce commitment to recycling and food waste recovery. It is thrilling to witness enthusiasm evolve into ACTION!

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