Southeast Green - Business depends on the environment and the environment depends on business

Zero Waste in ACTION

an Elemental Impact on-line magazine
  1. Sustainble F&B Packaging: moving from an emerging to a maturing industry
    On December 11 industry leaders converged on Global Green's Washington D.C. office for the Fourth Annual Sustainable Food & Beverage (F&B) Packaging Value Chain Meeting. The one-day meeting addresses the challenges | obstacles to sustainable F&B packaging.


    Ei Chair Scott Seydel with
    Paul Walker of Global Green
    Elemental Impact (Ei) orchestrates the powerful annual meeting. Invites are extended to the trade association and non-profit executives who operate within the F&B packaging value chain. 

    A BIG THANK YOU to Global Green for hosting the meeting in their shared office space. It was an honor Paul Walker who heads the D.C. office was in town and joined the meeting.


    Each year the meeting discussions exemplify the shifts and growth in an evolving industry. The ZWA Blog article, Tackling the Challenges | Barriers to Sustainable Packaging, is an overview of the 2013 meeting while Second Annual F&B Packaging Meeting, recaps the 2012 meeting. For a synopsis of the inaugural 2011 meeting, visit the ZWA Blog article, Sustainable Foodservice Packaging Meeting.

    Anchoring the value chain organizations are the following participating trade associations:

    Scott during welcoming remarks
    Numerous non-profits who work in arenas impacting food & beverage packaging attended the meeting:
    Many meeting participants joined Ei Chair Scott Seydel for a pre-meeting dinner at GS certified Beacon Bar & Grill. Great food and lively, fun dinner conversation set the stage for the powerful meeting the following day.

    In the morning, each organization presented on their mission, stakeholders, 2014 activities and finished with planned 2015 projects. The meeting agenda, PPT presentations and attendee list are available for download on the Ei Meetings & Events page. 

    It was intriguing to witness the accomplishments over the past year. The 2013 morning presentations were summarized as follows:
    Lack of consistency and confusion within the value chain was a consistent challenge interwoven within presentations. To create common ground several organizations are in various development stages for packaging standards, tool kits and other educational mediums. These documents are designed to assist the entire value chain - from manufacturers to foodservice operators to recycling and composting facilities - with decision making that aligns with emerging best sustainable packaging practices. 
    During the morning presentation, 2014 accomplishments included a plethora of action taken or in-process relating to tool kits and educational platforms:

    Foodservice Packaging Institute
    Lynn Dyer with FPI
    presenting
    • Foodservice Packaging Recovery Toolkit - organized by sectors: communities, MRF (material recovery facilities) and end markets; includes an interactive map of end markets and case studies of successful foodservice packaging recovery.
    • Foam Recycling Coalition - formed in 2014 to establish and fund proactive, multi-year grant programs geared to drive foam recovery & generate success stories; call for grant applications in early 2015 with grant announcements slated for spring 2015. 
    • Recycling & Composting Toolkit for foodservice operators slated for 2015 in partnership with the NRA.
    • Paper Recovery Alliance | Plastics Recovery Group formed in late 2011 continue as the working groups behind FPI tool kit development, educational webinars and industry alliances for joint projects.
    GreenBlue's Sustainable Packaging Coalition
    • SPC Foodservice Packaging Industry Leadership Committee, launched in 2013, is collaborating with FPI on a Design Guide that connects design with recovery. A supporting workshop is scheduled at SUSTPACK 2015.
    • How2Recycle (H2R): Clear. Consistent. Concise, recycling labels that make sensea voluntary, standardized labeling system that clearly communicates recycling instructions to the public; collaborating with BPI on incorporating composting into H2R label; consumer testing RFP (request for proposal) slated for release: McDonald's, Kellogg's, Wegmans & Honest Tea use the H2R labels on consumer packaging.
    Brie Welzer with Green Seal
    presenting
    Green Seal
    • Restaurant & Food Service Standard (GS-55) requirements address the significant impacts of food services: sustainably-sourced food (options are local and environmentally preferable), waste minimization, use of environmentally-preferable products, and conservation of energy and water. Launched in 2014 with 10 restaurants certified. 2015 Goal: become more visible & increase publicity on certified restaurants.
    • Food Service Packaging Standard (GS-35) - establishes environmental requirements for food-service food packaging, which includes single-use containers for packaging or carry-out of products from restaurants and other retail food service establishments.
    • Greening Food & Beverage Services - a Green Seal Guide to Transforming the Industry; published in 2011 and continues as a valuable industry tool.
    Institute for Local Self-Reliance
    Brenda Platt with ILSR
    presenting
    National Restaurant Association
    • NRA Sustainability Report, Shedding Light on Sustainability, the NRA's first-ever sustainability report focuses on environmentally-stable trends and initiatives within the restaurant industry. The report presents the industry’s efforts to reduce waste and conserve resources through practices including composting, recycling, energy and water efficiency, and food donations. A second report is slated for February 2015 publication.
    • Recycling & Composting Toolkit for foodservice operators slated for 2015 in partnership with the FPI.
    • Composting & Food Donation Toolkit slated for 2015.
    • Restaurant Litter Reduction Project with FPI & Keep America Beautiful underway.
    Sustainable Biomaterial Collaborative
    • Guidelines for Sustainable Bioplastics provide a road map for the development and continuing improvement of biobased plastics throughout their lifecycle; The Guidelines reflect the current collective wisdom of a wide range of organizations who address the potential benefits and challenges of biobased plastics.
    • BioSpecs for Foodservice WareEnvironmentally Preferable Specifications for Compostable Biobased Food Service Ware, define the criteria for manufacturers to determine the sustainability of their compostable foodservice ware; includes a sample bid document that purchasers may use when going to bid for compostable foodservice ware.
    The preceeding list exhibits the significant industry strides in developing consistent packaging standards, clear labeling, and resources to diffuse confusion when shifting food & beverage packaging to sustainable options.

    Cary Oshins with USCC
    The Composting Council Research and Education Foundation (CCREF) - the philantropic arm of the USCC - is a catalyst for advancement of composting technologies, practices, and beneficial uses that support resource conservation and economic and environmental sustainability. Within their mission, the CCREF positively impacts communities locally and globally by:
    • Fostering scientific research opportunities
    • Increasing awareness and educating the public
    • Advancing the stature and practices of the composting industry
    In her presentation, ILSR co-director Brenda Platt emphasized the important role grass roots composting systems play in food waste recovery. Working with the Washington D.C. Department of Parks & Recreation, the ILSR and ECO City Farms offer the Neighborhood Soil Rebuilders training program, a community composter train-the-trainer program with a community service component.

    Over 1,000 New York City citzens completed the Master Composting Program. According to Brenda, these Master Composters serve as community activists encouraging fellow residents to embark on neighborhood composting solutions for food waste and rebuilding the soil. Grass roots efforts, grounded in neighborhood activism, create the culture where public policy, supported by community leaders and private enterprise, may segue to macro solutions for food waste.

    Anne Bedarf & Matt de la Houssaye
    during the afternoon break
    In her presentation, Anne Bedarf with the SPC gave an update on the EPA Grant Scaling Up Composting in Charlotte, NC. The ZWA Blog article, Scaling up composting in Charlotte, details the grant goal, objectives, tasks and team members. Ei is honored to serve as subgrantee on the grant.

    Anne outlined three grant outcomes:
    1. Improve Waste Diversion & Infrastructure
    2. Food & Packaging Waste Characterization
    3. Lessons Learned & Transferability Report
    An early lesson learned is packaging is a second step in food waste diversion programs. Grant program participants include Central Piedmont Community College, Carolina Place, IKEA and the YMCA.  

    Ei founder Holly Elmore updated on the SFCI - Atlanta Airport implementation of the compostable packaging provision in the recent concessionaire contracts. The ZWA Blog article, Atlanta Airport's Leadership Role in Compostable Food & Beverage Packaging, includes a history of the contract provision along with an overview of the October SFCI Vendor Fair.

    Scott using a "recyclable"
    tripod to record presentations
    On the West Coast, CoRR brings food scrap recovery systems to multi-family buildings in the San Francisco Bay Area, and beyond. When tenants were presented with the bin and bag kits, nearly all showed a strong desire to participate in the program. Education on use of the compost end product is incorporated into the pilot. Piloting Food Scrap Composting in San Francisco Bay Area Apartment Buildings is an excellent short video of the in-progress pilots. 

    During the labeling discussion, BPI executive director Steve Mojo mentioned a prominent compostable packaging manufacturerer received a hefty fine due to its certified compostable label. The packaging was sold in an area without a composting site within 30 miles. Thus, clear labeling for product end use is contingent upon local legislation and destinations available. 

    BPI, USCC and FPI are jointly working on legislation for labeling of compostable products. The SPC is working on measuring access to composting facilities to check consistency with Federal Trade Commission Guidelines.

    In addition, BPI and USCC are working together on potential revisions to the ASTM - American Society for Testing and Materials - Standards at the foundation of the BPI compostable product certification criteria. With advancement in packaging technology and anaerobic digestion (AD) coming forth as a post-consumer food waste destination, it is time to review the standards with regards to industry evolution.

    Chris Weiss with DCEN was the local hero and perfect host for the group in Global Green's shared office space. Lively discussion followed Chris' presentation on the status of local D.C. initiatives and public policy.

    Patrick Serfass with ABC
    presenting 
    With perfect timing, the ABC joined the meeting group to participate in evolving industry discussions. ABC Patrick Serfass executive director gave an introductory presentaiton with an overview of ABC's mission and work-in-progress. Synergies abounded and collaborative seeds were planted during breaks and intermingled within the afternoon strategy session.

    After a lovely lunch catered by Whole Foods Market, the afternoon strategy session began with a discussion on the group's focus and objectives. For the 2014 meeting, the focus was on increasing organics recycling in the commercial | institutional foodservice sector (includes outdoor festivals and food trucks). Curbside (residential) and retail (grocery store) organics recycling were relegated to future meetings.

    The NRA teams with the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute in the Food Waste Reduction Alliance (FWRA). Targeted at retail grocery stores, the FWRA focuses on food waste reduction, donation and recycling. When the meeting focus expands to retail grocery, the NRA will invite the appropriate FWRA associates to join the group at the annual meeting.

    Elissa Elan with NRA
    during strategy session
    Interwoven throughout conversations were the industry resources available for the foodservice operator via task forces, toolkits and documented case studies. In addition to those included above in the morning presentation outline, the following resources are available on-line:
    Business case and end markets were included as one discussion topic; strong end markets for compost and biogas are the drivers to create a sustainable value chain where all parties make a reasonable profit. 

    In 2014, Maryland passed HB878 & SB814by December 30, 2014, the State Highway Administration (SHA) is required to establish a specification for the acquisition and use of compost and compost-based products for:
    • erosion & sediment control
    • post-construction stormwater management
    A SHA report is due to the State Assembly by December 1, 2015.

    Driving policy at the state level is key to creating strong end markets. In addition to the SHA there are many other state-run agencies | divisions that benefit from compost use. Colleges | universities, parks & recreation, and state government centers are several examples.

    Challenges abound in multi-tenant facilties where the foodservice operator does not control the waste | recycling contracts. In these scenarios, the tenant often pays for the organics collection yet does not benefit from the reduced landfill cost-savings. Ei's Sustainable Food Court Initiative was created in early 2011 to address the challenges associated with multi-tenant facilities.

    Often organics recycling programs cost more than landfill tipping fees. Post-consumer food waste recycling programs may include packaging shift costs and upgraded consumer recycling centers with new signage.  

    Holly Elmore with Ei
    presenting
    In Ei's Source-Separated Materials Recycling Template (S-SMRT), a Total Materials Management Approach (TMMA) is used where materials with solid end markets (e.g. aluminum, mixed paper, certain plastics) subsidize more challenging streams generated in operations (e.g. food waste). The ZWA Blog article, Total Materials Management Approach, introduces TMMA and gives an in-depth S-SMRT overview.

    Processing capacity emerged as the biggest industry challenge at this juncture. Without local or regional organics recycling destinations, there is little incentive for foodservice operators to convert food and beverage packaging to sustainable options. 

    As Brenda emphasized in her morning presentation, the Master Composter Program is a grass roots approach to building community, even neighborhood, composting destinations that bridge gaps. The master composters are educated residents who drive a public consciousness shift towards the value of organics recycling for rebuilding healthy soil.

    The majority of yard debris composting sites do not accept food waste. An educational campaign encouraging these facilities to accept food waste may collectively increase current capacity by a significant amount.

    Barriers to increasing organics recycling capacity include:
    • Permitting, in some states permits take an average of 18 months
    • Access to land, especially in the Northeast
    • Demand for organics recycling programs
    • Community acceptance of organic recycling facilities
    • Available financing
    Biogas specific barriers include:
    • Low cost financing
    • Interconnection of gas and electricity
    • Long-term feedstock contracts
    Pre-meeting group at
    Beacon Bar & Grill
    Product labeling was introduced during Anne's morning presentation and included as a strategy session topic. Even with the significant label strides over the past year, especially with the SPC H2R label program, there is frustration and confusion with developing industry standards. How granular is appropriate for labels - should labels be on the product or only the transport packaging? 

    As mentioned earlier one manufacturer was fined for labeling a BPI certified product compostable due to state regulations. Thus, public policy and state regulations are key to developing consistent label standards. Can national labels work with varying state regulations?

    Education is key to organics recycling success.The group defined the following audiences for educational materials:
    • Composters
    • Foodservice operators | brand owners
    • Distributors
    • Packagers | manufacturers
    • Packaging designers
    • Purchasing associates
    • Marketing | sales departments
    • Legal teams
    • Government officials
    2015 Meeting Group Photo
    see FB album for names
    False compostability claims are abundant under the auspices of oxodegradable, biodegradable and omnidegradable. Within educational materials, it is important to include a section on how to identify compostable products accepted by the organics recycling destination. The ZWA Blog article, Third Party Certification Edges Industry Towards a Zero Waste Economy, identifies BPI certification as the nation's accepted standard for compostable products.

    Contamination was the final topic addressed in the vibrant strategy session. Woven throughout the many topics were solutions for contamination ranging from education to labeling to industry standards. A close relationship between the food waste hauler and operator is essential to creating a clean stream. The hauler must take responsibility for the stream collected and work in partnership with the operator on creating in-house practices for contaminant-free material.

    As with all successful meetings, action points were summarized as part of the closure. In 2014 the group convened for the first time mid-year via a two-hour call; in 2015 a 90-minute group call will facilitate communication throughout the year. The referenced toolkits and other industry resources are loaded onto the Ei Reference Materials page for a common research focal point. Public-access documents are available for download on the page.

    The Ei FB album, Fourth Annual Sustainable F&B Packaging Value Chain Meeting, is a pictorial recap of the powerful meeting.

    In the past four years, Sustainable Food & Beverage Packaging transformed from an emerging to a maturing industry. Clarity comes forth from prior years confusion in the form of a plethora of industry toolkits, webinars and resources. Standards are developing along with the necessary structure to mature into success. 

    The Annual Sustainable Food & Beverage Packaging Value Chain Meeting is critical to the common industry voice and abundant collaboration among the key participating organizations. Stay tuned as the industry evolves from maturing to mature ...
  2. Total Materials Management Approach
    Within Elemental Impact's (Ei) Recycling Refinementplatform, 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.

    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. 

    M-PASS Lorraine White
    "picking the bowl" for food waste
    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!
  3. Green Streets Comes to Atlanta!
    Grass roots programs are imperative to mobilizing societal shifts. Green Streets is the perfect grass roots initiative to catapult urban consciousness into a new realm; a realm where valuable material and human lives regain dignity, purpose and prosper.


    Tyrone Mullins
    Founded in San Francisco, Green Streets is a documentary of a young man who said YES to an inner calling for street action; it was a matter of personal survival. Yet personal survival corresponds with humanity's survival when the Earth's finite resources are concerned.

    An inspirational Citizen Film documentary, Green Streets captures what is accomplished when a powerful individual answers his heart's calling.

    Green Streets follows 29 year old entrepreneur Tyrone Mullins and his friends as they turn trash into cash in the distressed San Francisco housing projects where they live. Through trial and error, they learn to haul 150,000 gallons of waste per month, creating desperately needed jobs, and establishing recycling where all previous efforts had failed.

    Citizen Film is a not-for-profit production company dedicated to crafting documentaries with care and dignity. Through collaboration with cultural institutions, community organizations and independent producers, Citizen Film creates films and online media that foster active engagement in cultural and civic life.

    Thanks to their visionary spirit, the Arthur M. Blank Family Foundation brings Green Streets to Atlanta as the first in a series of film screenings. A thought-provoking conversation panel moderated by Sophie Constantinou, Citizen Film co-founder and director of photography, follows the film. The inaugural screening is instrumental for Green Streets and subsequent films. 

    The screening announcement has powerful copy:

    Green Streets, a documentary work-in-progress
    Can inner-city entrepreneurship rekindle the American Dream?
    A cinematic celebration of urban innovation

    Elemental Impact (Ei) is honored to co-present the Atlanta January 14 screening along with Green Streets, Urban Strategies, Citizen Film and the Fledgling Fund.

    There are excellent synergies for Green Streets-style grass roots programs to team with the Source-Separated Materials Recycling Template. Post-screening an article will chronicle how Green Streets may find a vibrant life within Atlanta's entrepreneurial landscape.

    In the meantime, Ei is excited to welcome the Citizen Film crew to Atlanta! ... and an early May San Francisco visit is in the works. Stay tuned as synergies are percolating!!! 
  4. Third Party Certification Edges Industry Towards a Zero Waste Economy
    Third party certifications play a valuable role for evaluating products and services. Independent review | testing ensures the product manufacturer proclamations are valid and follow industry standards. In addition third party certification is instrumental in setting standards and protocol within evolving industries.

    In 2011 Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport (ATL) - the busiest airport in the world - set new industry protocol with the groundbreaking compostable packaging provision in the new concessionaire contract. The ATL sustainability office relied upon the Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) - Atlanta Airport Team to write the contract provision implementation policy.

    The published document, Atlanta Airport Compostable Packaging Information Packet, details the ATL food & beverage packaging policy. During the drafting process, the SFCI Team was adamant third party compostability certification was incorporated into the policy. In the United States, the Biodegradables Products Institute (BPI) is the recognized third party compostable packaging certification standard. Concessionaires are required to use BPI-certified compostable food & beverage packaging for single-use service.

    The ZWA Blog article, Atlanta Airport's Leadership Role in Compostable Food & Beverage Packaging, gives the history of ATL's contract provision along with compostable packaging implementation plans. At the recent SFCI Vendor Fair, the concessionaires were educated on the plethora of BPI-certified food & beverage packaging products available.

    Once implemented, the ATL contract provision is staged to shift food & beverage packaging protocol at airports, large event facilities, conference centers and throughout the restaurant market. Note most large restaurant chains and QSR (quick service restaurants) operate an ATL outlet. Thus, a significant percentage of national restaurants will have consumer-facing compostable packaging printed with logos and tag lines.

    Another third-party nonprofit certification organization, Green Seal, also certifies foodservice packaging to distinguish more sustainable options on the marketplace. Green Seal’s GS-35 Standard for Foodservice Packaging describes requirements such as prohibitions on toxins, performance testing for grease and moisture resistance, and also compostability .

    Beyond foodservice packaging, Green Seal certifies restaurants and hotels – helping foodies and travelers identify businesses that have taken serious strides to reduce their waste, make responsible food purchasing choices, and conserve water and energy. As a legitimate third-party certifier, Green Seal conducts audits of its certified restaurants, hotels, and product manufacturing sites to ensure that these companies are fully complying with the criteria in the various Green Seal standards.   

    In response to industry requests for zero waste standardization and third party validation, the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) launched the Zero Waste Certification Program (ZWCP) in March 2013. As the first zero waste certification program in the nation, the ZWCP establishes protocol and defines parameters for zero waste claims. For example, incineration is often included in the term "landfill diversion" yet is specifically NOT a zero waste material destination within the ZWCP.

    Whole Foods Market w/
    Zero Waste Certification
    photo courtesy of USZWBC
    At the ZWCP launch the first Zero Waste Certifications were awarded to three Whole Foods Market stores in San Diego County. In the related press release, USZWBC executive director Stephanie Barger states:
    "We are thrilled to launch the new certification program and to verify the achievements of Whole Foods Market. Our goal is not only to provide credibility to Zero Waste businesses, but also to offer the resources needed to create value and save money through Zero Waste practices.The U.S. Zero Waste Business Council offers businesses access to recycling markets, peer-to-peer networking, Zero Waste training and conferences."
    ZWCP Objectives:
    • Supports Zero Waste International Alliance definition of no waste to landfill, incineration and the environment.
    • Drives the development of new markets and new ideas towards a zero waste economy.
    • Meets zero waste businesses request for valid and comprehensive third party certification.
    • Focuses on upstream policies and practices beyond diversion or recycling.
    • Emphasizes strong total participation, training of all employees, zero waste relationships with vendors and customers.

    ZWCP Requirements:
    1. Zero waste policy in place.
    2. 90% overall diversion from landfill and incineration for non-hazardous wastes. 
      • - Discarded materials are reduced, reused, recycled, composted or recovered for    productive use in nature or the economy at biological temperatures and  pressures.
        - Materials can be processed above ambient biological temperatures (>200° F) to    recover energy from the 10% residual, but they do not count as part of the 90%  diversion.
        - Reused materials (office furniture, pallets, paper, etc) are eligible to count as part of the  90% diversion requirement.
    3. Meet all federal, state/provincial, and local solid waste and recycling regulations.
    4. Data provided to USZWBC has been published formally.
    5. Data documents a base year and measurements since the base year.
    6. Commit to submit 12 months of data to USZWBC annually (Data submitted will be public and published on the USZWBC website).
    7. Case study of zero waste initiatives may be published on USZWBC website.
    8. Recertification is required every three years.
    9. Contamination is not to exceed 10% of each material once it leaves the company site.
    Within the ZWCP, certification is awarded at the Bronze, Silver, Gold & Platinum Levels. A scorecard system similar to the U.S Green Building Council LEED Certification Program is used.

    Scott Lutocka of Piazza Produce
    w/ USZWBC President receiving
    ZWCP plaque @ 2014 Conference
    Since the ZWCP launch six additional Whole Food Markets achieved bronze zero waste certification status. In addition, the following companies were awarded zero waste certifications: GOLD - American Licorice CompanyANN INC and Piazza Produce; PLATINUM: Fetzer Vineyards and Sierra Nevada Brewing Company


    To support ZWCP, the USZWB developed the Zero Waste Business Associate (ZWBA) certification system to train professionals on zero waste practices in accordance with ZWCP criteria. Certificate holders gain a practical understanding of current zero waste business principles and practices, USZWBC policies and processes, and demonstrate a clear commitment to professional growth in advancing zero waste.

    As of this article, over 150 individuals attended ZWBA training courses hosted at four locations. 

    In the future, zero waste standards will require a waste-free product life cycle flowing from raw materials through the manufacturing process and finishing with product end use destination. Circular economy advocates are paving the path towards a zero waste economy. 

    The IMPACT Blog article, A Revolutionary Evolution: going from a linear economy to a circular economy, introduces the Circular Economy 100, an Ellen MacArthur Foundation platform to re-think the future.

    Elemental Impact is honored to work closely with the USZWBC grounding new industry standards via the ZWCP. As zero waste practices edge closer to circular economy standards, the USZWBC will continue their evolving leadership role working with pioneers committed to a waste-free product life-cycle.
  5. 2015 Zero Waste Conference: A Star-Studded Event!
    On May 5 - 7, 2015 sustainability leaders from across industry boundaries will converge on the City of Los Angeles (LA) for the Fourth Annual National U.S Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) Conference,The Stars of Zero Waste. Announced at the 2014 USZWBC Conference hosted in Atlanta, the 2015 star-studded event is staged for grandeur.

    MattPetersen resized
    Matt Petersen
    With ample planning time, the conference program is filled with local LA stars as well those traveling across the nation to share their expertise. In addition to the stellar program, pre and post-conference activities include the ZWBA Scorecard 101 Professional Training Course, workshops and tours of local landmarks dedicated to zero waste.

    Committed to their host city role, LA staff traveled to Atlanta for the 2014 conference and lived the USZWBC conference experience. Reina Pereira, senior environmental engineer, Solid Resources Support ServicesDivision, LA Bureau of Sanitation and Marivic Sabillo, management analyst II, LA Bureau of Sanitation attended the Atlanta conference and supporting activities. The LA Bureau of Sanitation grounded their 2015 hosting commitment as a 2014 USZWBC Conference Sponsor.

    LA chief sustainability officer Matt Peterson welcomes attendees to his fine city as the 2015 USZBC Conference keynote opening speaker. Prior to joining LA Matt was co-founder & president of Global Green USA for 19+ years. During Matt's Global Green tenure, the Coalition of Resource Recovery was launched first in New York City and later expanded to a national platform.

    FedeleBauccioPhoto resized
    Fedele Bauccio
    Fedele Bauccio, Bon Appétit Management Company (BAMC) co-founder, shares his company's pioneer role in environmentally sound operating policies as the first day lunch keynote. BAMC provides foodservice to corporations, universities, and museums in 32 states. Complementing its longstanding food-waste reduction efforts, BAMC was an early partner of the Food Recovery Network and has three dozen cafés Food Recovery Certified.

    Additional plenary keynotes, panels and breakout sessions are in various planning stages. As in prior years, the final program consists of topics national in focus yet infiltrated with the local host city flavor.

    Announced in March 2013 the USZWBC Zero Waste Certification Program (ZWCP) - the first U.S. third-party zero waste certification program - is a featured topic throughout conference sessions. Associates from many of the zero waste certified facilities are speaking as panelists or keynotes over the two-day event. The ZWZ Blog article, Third Party Certification Edges Industry Towards a Zero Waste Economy, introduces the ZWCP.

    Stated 2015 conference goals are:
    • Helping businesses achieve zero waste to both help the environment and their bottom line.
    • Teaching businesses waste reduction methods from the leaders in the field including industry specialists and experts from zero waste businesses that achieved more than 90% diversion.
    The conference is designed for zero waste veterans as well as those embarking upon the path with the following attendee profile: 
    • Corporate sustainability managers and facility managers looking to cut costs through greener practices.
    • Small and mid-sized business managers looking to improve waste reduction practices.
    • State and local government employees who help businesses reduce waste and get to zero waste.
    • Environmental consulting firms that want to learn about the latest successes in zero waste and certification.
    2014 Opening Keynote
    Laura Turner Seydel
    Photo courtesy of Scott Lutocka
    For the second consecutive year, Elemental Impact (Ei) serves as the conference media partner. The ZWA Blog article, USZWBC Conference Theme: Zero Waste Evolution, is an overview of the excellent 2014 conference hosted in Atlanta.

    Registration is open for the 2015 USZWBC Conference with early bird rates available until year end. For those interested in conference sponsorship, the Sponsorship page details options available. Upon request, tailored sponsor packages are considered.

    Join the industry colleagues in LA for the 2015 USZWBC Conference as the Stars of Zero Waste forge new zero waste frontiers!
  6. 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
    meetings 
    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!
  7. 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) 
    Infrastructure:
     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! 
  8. 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
    @ ATL
    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!
  9. 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 Pant-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.
  10. SFCI targets post-consumer food waste
    When the Zero Waste Zones launched in 2009 Atlanta was thrust into the national spotlight as the leader in the commercial collection of food waste for compost. As highlighted in the CNN story City aims for zero waste, the ZWZ focused on back-of-the-house (BOH) | pre-consumer food waste collection for compost.

    Chef Ahmad Nourzad
    w/ Affairs to Remember
    "It was Easy - Thank You" was a common phrase from ZWZ Participants. Yet arriving to this point was NOT easy! It took a team of industry leaders who were willing to figure out by trial and error the new "easy" food waste collection practices. Kudos to Patrick Cuccaro of Affairs to Remember, Randy Childers of The Hyatt Regency, Steve Simon of fifth group restaurants, Executive Chef Frank Abbinanti of Levy Restaurants | Georgia World Congress Center, to name a few, for leading the industry in pre-consumer food waste collection!

    With Elemental Impact's (Ei) ZWZ role complete, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) purchased the ZWZ in late 2012 to augment its ConServe Program. The ZWZ sale substantiated Ei as a powerful program creator. A common phrase in Ei founder Holly Elmore's many speaking engagements summarizes Ei's industry role:

    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.

    The August, 2013 IMPACT Blog article, Ei Emerges Strong from a Metamorphosis, announces the Ei triple-platform focus: Product Stewardship, Recycling Refinement and Water Use | Toxicity. Within Recycling Refinement - moving beyond landfill diversion - post-consumer food waste collection is a primary focus, along with on-site source-separated material for recycling collection.

    As ZWZ Participants, each of the Sustainable Food Court Initiative Pilots have strong pre-consumer food waste collection commitments. Below is a recap of the respective SFCI Pilot's goals for post-consumer food waste collection for compost or other state-permitted destinations other than landfill:

    The 2014 | 2015 primary SFCI focus is post-consumer food waste collection.

    As the SFCI - Shopping Center Pilot, Concord Mills in Charlotte, NC takes an industry leading role in mall food court BOH food waste collection, wasted food donation and plastic film recycling. The March 2013 ZWA Blog article, Bring the Possible out of Impossible, highlights the strong working relationship with Ei Partner HMSHost (food court concessionaire) and mall owner Simon Property Group.

    Ray with his Orwak baler,
    the workhorse of the plastic film
    recycling program
    In April, Concord Mills general manager Ray Soporowski hosted the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, Region IV Scaling Up Compost in Charlotte Grant Team for a tour of the food waste and plastic film recycling programs. During the tour, Ray agreed to pilot a post-consumer food waste collection program in the food court. The game plan is to meet in the summer to devise a game plan for implementation after the busy year-end holiday season. The ZWA Blog article, Charlotte Focuses on Food Waste with EPA Grant Support, recaps the April Charlotte visit.

    The Ei Team visits Charlotte July 30 - August 01 for three days of powerful tours, meetings and strategy sessions. A meeting with Ray on the Concord Mills post-consumer food waste collection pilot is scheduled as a top priority.

    In 2011 Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the busiest airport in the world, made a bold sustainable statement by including a provision in the Airport Concessionaire Request for Proposal requiring food vendors to use compostable packaging. 

    Ei Chair Scott Seydel w/ Scott
    DeFife of the NRA w/the
    Going Green Airports Award
    The provision announcement coincided with the Atlanta Airport stepping forward as the first SFCI Pilot. For an overview of the groundbreaking provision, visit the ZWA Blog article, Atlanta Airport Makes a Bold Sustainable Statement. The SFCI - Atlanta Airport won a 2011 Going Green Airports Award for the contract provision.

    The Ei Atlanta Airport Compostable Packaging Information Packet page is an overview of the comprehensive document prepared by the SFCI Team in 2012 to educate airport concessionaires on the contract provision.

    With the new contract completing its eighteen month implementation process, the Airport is informing concessionaires the compostable packaging provision is effective by year end. Liza Milagro - Atlanta Airport senior sustainability planner - is orchestrating a series of lunch and learn sessions to educate and prepare the Concessions Department for provision compliance.

    Liza & Doug @ Atlanta Airport 
    SFCI co-chair Doug Kunnemann of NatureWorks works closely with Liza on developing a Compostable Packaging Products Manual to aid concessionaires in meeting the contract provision. The document focus is on the compostable packaging definition and how to communicate the packaging requirements within the concessionaire supply chain.

    On Friday, August 8 Liza meets with the newly formed Ei Sustainable Materials ACTION Team chaired by Sarah Martell of innovia Films to tour the airport concession operations. Committee members Grant Braasch of NatureWorks, Rick Lombardo of Natur-Tec and Wendell Simonson of Eco-Products will share their expertise with Liza and offer their on-going support. 

    The Ei Sustainable Materials ACTION Team is a team of industry experts from non-profits and private enterprise who provide support to foodservice operators eager to refine their food waste collection practices. One of the main committee tasks is to support the SFCI Pilots as they embark on post-consumer food waste collection programs.

    The Georgia World Congress Center Authority, including the Georgia World Congress Center, Georgia Dome and Centennial Olympic Park, was the first ZWZ Participant and hosted the acclaimed 2009 press conference launching the program. A veteran to zero waste practices, the GWCC is eager to refine their recycling programs.  

    Tim "picking the bowl" @
    2013 Falcons Game
    In early 2012 GWCCA director of sustainability Tim Trefzer gave the big YES to the Georgia Dome serving as the SFCI - Event Venue Pilot!  For the 2014 Atlanta Falcons season, the SFCI - Georgia Dome announces the following 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 is the first action step and timing is impeccable with the upcoming August 08 & 23 pre-season Falcons home games. Future articles will document the planning and action necessary to accomplish the 2014 Atlanta Falcons Season Goals.

    Food donation programs are integral to successful post-consumer food waste systems. In the original ZWZ Criteria, participants were required to donate excess food in accordance with the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act. Often there is prepared food deemed unservable due to quality standards yet meets the donation standards.

    Perry with food ready for donation
    Perry Kranias with HMSHost - Tampa International Airport is a leading pioneer in maximizing donated food in commercial foodservice operations. The ZWA Blog's most popular article (almost to 8,000 pageviews!), Reduce First, Donate Second, Compost Third, is an introduction to the Tampa Airport donation program. 

    HMSHost contracts with the Food Donation Connection (FDC) on a national basis to orchestrate their donation programs. FDC is a NRA partner organization who specializes in the tax benefits generated by food donation programs. In partnership with YUM! Brands, FDC produced an excellent video, HMSHost and Food Donation Connection Food Rescue, on their system featuring the Tampa Airport donation program.

    The post-consumer food waste goals are stated, action plans are established or in the formation stage, and the Ei Team is mobilized to provide guidance and support to industry pioneers. 

    Ei's tagline Sustainability in ACTION is indeed in action for post-consumer food waste programs. Let the possible flow from the impossible while pioneers segue into heroes!

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