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

Zero Waste in ACTION

an Elemental Impact on-line magazine
  1. Carbon Crisis: simply a matter of balance
    From the onset, the "carbon issue" caused confusion and often misinterpretation. How can carbon be bad when it is the Earth's building block? What is a carbon footprint? What are the differences between the varying carbon compounds and how are they generated? Is carbon the culprit for climate change?

    It is time to simplify the carbon scenario and bring clarity to the confusion. By aligning with the perfect systems inherent within Nature, simple solutions emerge that bring the Earth's carbon cycles back into balance.

    Carbon Footprint Background:
    Introduced in 2007 by Anindita Mitra, CREA Affiliates founding principal, the term carbon footprint was first used as a measure of the carbon emission in the City of Longwood, Washington energy plan. A derivative of the ecological footprint, developed by Rees and Wackernagel in the 1990s, the carbon footprint measures the use of carbon and serves as an indicator of unsustainable energy use. (1)

    In June 2009 Elemental Impact's (Ei) predecessor, the Green Foodservice Alliance, hosted a Carbon WHAT? seminar in partnership with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 4. The seminar clarified the recently introduced carbon footprint and carbon credit via the following topics:

    How carbon impacts the environment.
    How carbon is generated.
    What is a carbon footprint?
    How to calculate a carbon footprint.
    What are carbon credits?
    How to generate carbon credits.
    How to purchase carbon credits (if needed).

    A seminar transcript provided by the EPA is available on the Ei References & Materials page under the Other Sustainability Topics category.

    The 2012 Simple Show two-minute Carbon Footprint video gives an excellent overview of the comprehensive nature of the carbon footprint calculation.

    The Earth's Carbon Cycle
    Although the carbon footprint is explained in many diverse sources, confusion remains about how carbon can be "bad;" it is the essence of Earth lifeforms. In simplistic terms, the Earth's carbon cycle is out of balance.

    Earth Carbon Pools
    image courtesy of The Soil Story
    The Earth's carbon cycle maintains balance between five carbon pools:
    1. Atmosphere
    2. Oceans
    3. Soils
    4. Biosphere
    5. Fossil

    Removal and burning of stored carbon from the fossil pool in the form of coal, natural gas and petroleum is the catalyst for the out-of-balance state. When burned as an energy source, fossil carbon is transferred into the atmosphere and ocean carbon pools. In addition, common commercial agriculture practices remove carbon from the soil as well as prevent carbon sequestering in amounts necessary to maintain balance.

    To date, an estimated 800,000,000,000 tons of carbon is released from the soil and fossil pools into the atmosphere. A portion of the atmosphere carbon is absorbed by the oceans; the carbon dioxide reacts with sea water to produce acid, causing Ocean Acidification with severe implications.

    A Simple Solution
    An empowering four-minute video, The Soil Story states the problem and the solution are a matter of balance. Simply: there is too much carbon in the atmosphere and ocean pools. To restore balance, excess carbon must transfer to the fossil, biosphere and/or soil pools.

    The video explains the Earth's carbon cycle in an easy-to-understand format where soil is the hero for regaining balance. 

    Plants serve as atmosphere carbon pumps via photosynthesis. The soil stores the "pumped carbon" as food for its incredible ecosystem, including a wide array of invertebrates and microorganisms.

    Cattle grazing
    photo courtesy of the
    Marin Carbon Project
    Healthy, well-structured soil produces nutritious food and gains more carbon from plant decay. In addition, healthy soil filters and retains water - up to 40% more water than out-of-balance soil. A positive feedback loop within the carbon cycle restores balance.

    Regenerative agriculture is essential to restore the carbon cycle balance. Current soil tilling practices break the carbon cycle and harm the soil ecosystem. Thus, petroleum-based fertilizers are used to grow crops. Yet these crops are devoid of many nutrients provided by the soil ecosystem. 

    Rotating livestock grazing fields augments soil rebuilding. Manure worked into the soil by hooves plays a similar role to field-applied compost. Post-grazing period, the field replenishes itself with native plants. The cycle continues by the plants pumping carbon into the soil via strong root systems.

    Ryland Englehart, Cafe Gratitude owner and Kiss the Ground co-founder, completes his video narration with the following powerful statement:

    Regeneration of soil is the task of our generation.

    The video emphasizes the importance of reducing | stopping burning fossil fuels. 

    Soil Restoration | Carbon Sequestering
    The U.C. Berkeley Cal Alumni Association California Magazine November 2014 article New Global Warming Remedy: Turning Rangelands into Carbon-Sucking Vacuums documents a carbon sequestering study at a prominent 540-acre west Marin County ranch in the San Francisco Bay area. Owned by John Wick and his wife Peggy Rathmann, Nicasio Native Grass Ranch was a perfect site to document grassland restoration coupled with carbon sequestering.

    Wick and Rathmann contracted with rangeland ecologist and Carbon Cycle Director Jeff Creque, to embark on a grassland restoration project. With Creque at the helm, the project evolved into a well-researched soil restoration | carbon sequestering study at the ranch.

    For the study, cattle were re-introduced to the ranch with rotating grazing patterns similar to the feeding patterns of the long-vanished elk herds. In addition, a single half-inch layer of compost was applied on numerous test plots.

    In Wick's words, "The changes were dramatic.We had native grasses and wildflowers coming back, and native birds were returning. You could just see our grasslands functioning at a higher state.”

    Creque confirms the success in more technical terms:
    By increasing soil carbon, you’re increasing soil fertility and water retention capacity. That results in more robust vegetation, which captures more and more carbon from the atmosphere. This carbon is stored underground in the roots, in residual dry matter (on the surface) and in enhanced populations of microorganisms in the soil.
    Wildflowers return
    photo courtesy of the Marin Carbon Project
    Testing confirmed the composted plots sequestered from one-half to three tons of carbon per hectare per year as a result of the single application. In Creque's words, "The revitalized rangelands essentially turn into landscape-scale vacuum cleaners, sucking prodigious quantities of carbon from the atmosphere."

    Carbon dating tests confirmed most of the carbon was sequestered from the atmosphere; the compost served as a catalyst to re-ignite the soil carbon cycle.

    The Nicasio Native Grass Ranch study further evolved into The Marin Carbon Project (MCP), co-founded by Wick & Creque. After a vigorous vetting process, the MCP Protocols were approved by the American Carbon Registry for voluntary carbon credits. 

    ... and the article ends with an important caveat: Yes, it’s apparently a very good thing to turn all our kitchen slop into dark, rich compost and spread it on our rangelands. But we also have to stop incinerating the residues of dead dinosaurs.

    Carbon Sinks
    Vast rangelands may serve as carbon sinks - a forest, ocean, or other natural environment viewed in terms of its ability to absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere - and contribute to restoring balance within the carbon cycle. The Nicasio Native Grass Ranch study substantiates compost as a catalyst for carbon sink creation.

    Is there an adequate quantity of compost for a half-inch application on the rangelands? 

    NO! Yet compost recipe ingredients are readily available. Food waste, a nitrogen ingredient in the compost manufacturing process, is an abundant, continually replenished resource generated in urban areas as well as at food processing facilities. Unfortunately, food waste is most often treated as trash, versus a valuable resource.

    According to the EPA, 95% of discarded food waste is landfill destined. In landfills food waste produces methane gas, a Greenhouse Gas 20 - 25% more potent than carbon dioxide. Americans disposed of an estimated 38 million tons of food waste in 2014.

    Food waste compost manufacturing faces two significant challenges: 1> limited state-permitted facilities and 2> contamination within the food waste streams collected. The U.S. Composting Council is committed to resolving industry challenges and building strong compost manufacturing infrastructure.

    Commercial food waste
    from a restaurant
    As the forerunner in the commercial collection of food waste for compost, Ei was home to the Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ), launched in 2009 and sold to the National Restaurant Association in 2012. One of the ZWZ participation criteria was the collection of food waste for compost. 

    In 2015, Ei proclaimed post-consumer food waste collection for compost was the primary focus of the Sustainable Food Court Initiative Pilots (the Atlanta Airport, Georgia World Congress Center and Concord Mills).

    To address food waste contamination, Ei announced the Macro Cost of Micro Contamination focus area at the 2016 National Zero Waste Business Conference. Single-use plastic packaging is a major culprit in food waste contamination, especially when fragmented into microplastics. In foodservice operations, Ei promotes the use of BPI-Certified Compostable products for single-use packaging.

    Ei Partner Rick Lombardo
    introducing the Macro Cost
    of Micro Contamination
    In addition to rangelands, Ei is eager to explore creating urban carbon sinks. Common area lands along with corporate, government and university grounds are potential carbon sink sites. Other promising carbon sink sites are roadway system medians, shoulders and buffer zones. Several prominent Atlanta-based entities expressed enthusiasm to participate in carbon sequestering pilots using compost manufactured from their campus food waste.

    At the 2017 Word Economics Forum Annual Meeting, the Ellen MacArthur Foundation (EMF) introduced an Urban Biocycle Economy concept paper that addresses nutrient cycles within urban areas. The EMF paper has potential to propel research and pilots related to urban carbon cycles. Formal release is slated for March 2017. 

    Carbon sequestering via carbon sink creation may serve as the catalyst to shift food waste from landfill destination to compost manufacturing. With strong emphasis on community and corporate carbon footprints, carbon sequestration is a powerful incentive to drive compost demand, which in turn drives supply creation. 

    Carbon crisis solutions are grounded in simple tactics: 1> align systems within Nature's proven cycles and 2> rely on basic supply | demand economics. Remember the carbon crisis is simply a matter of returning to balance!

    (1) Wikipedia Carbon Footprint page. 
  2. NatureWorks publishes zero food waste case studies
    With perfect timing for the November Annual Elemental Impact (Ei) Partner Meeting, Ei Partner NatureWorks published the RayDay Embraces Path to Waste Reduction and Proven Steps Culminate Into Waste Reduction Success case studies to showcase the 2015 Ei Zero Food Waste Journeys. The case studies are announced in the IMPACT Blog article, Ei 2016: Year of Recognition, within the powerful meeting recap.

    On June 15, 2015, Les Dames d’Escoffier International, Atlanta Chapter (LDEI) agreed to partner with Ei on a zero food waste journey at their prominent fundraiser Afternoon in the Country (AITC) hosted by the Inn at Serenbe within the Serenbe Community. In addition, AITC Event Producer ideaLand secured a zero food waste commitment for 2015 RayDay hosted at Serenbe.

    Commercial back-of-the-house collection of food waste for compost best practices were established via the Zero Waste Zones, an Ei program launched in 2009 and sold in 2012 to the National Restaurant Association. In 2011 Ei launched the Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) to address front-of-the-house food waste practices where the consumer is responsible for material disposition. 

    Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport joined as the SFCI - Airport Pilot, followed by the Georgia Dome as the SFCI - Event Venue Pilot and Concord Mills, a Simon Mall in Charlotte, NC, as the SFCI - Shopping Mall Pilot.

    The Ei SMAT - Sustainable Materials ACTION Team - was eager to work with RayDay and AITC management on establishing best food waste practices at an annual event. The following local government entities and companies supported SMAT with the AITC | RayDay food waste journeys:
    • City of Atlanta, Mayor's Office of Sustainability
    • ideaLand, AITC | RayDay Event Producer
    • U.S. Environmental Protection Division, Region 4
    • Inn at Serenbe | Serenbe Community, Event Host
    An annual event zero food waste plan breaks down into three main categories, each equally important for effective execution:

    Food & Beverage (F&B) Serviceware:
    • Compostable packaging – single-use F&B serviceware must be BPI Certified compostable; an exception is pre-packaged beverages in recyclable containers, such as bottled water, soft drinks and beer.
    • Education – event F&B providers must be educated on the WHY, WHAT & HOW to serve in compostable packaging; includes support with purchasing unique serving items.
    • On-site Monitoring – volunteers | event staff visit foodservice operators upon arrival at the event to observe any F&B serviceware or other items brought by the establishment that may contaminate the food waste stream.
    Food Waste Collection:
    Ei Chair Scott Seydel with the
    RayDay Waste Ambassadors
    • Waste | recycling bins – in the beginning, a three-tier bin is used: 1> Food Waste, 2> Recycling, 3> Landfill; at future events the system evolves into a two-tier system: 1> Food Waste, 2> Recycling.
    • Clear signage – the bins must be supported by clear signage designating proper disposal; visuals are most helpful.
    • Monitor attendee disposal – volunteers | event staff assist attendees with disposal of items into proper bins to prevent contamination.
    Food Waste Destination:
    • Donation – ensure a plan is in-place for donation of leftover food in accordance with the Good Samaritan Food Donation Act.
    • Compost – deliver remaining food waste, back & front-of-the-house, to a composting site operating within state food waste permit regulations.
    • Animal feed – when compostable packaging is mixed with food waste it is unfit for animal consumption; food waste generated under the same roof as meat is often not permitted for animal feed pursuant to respective State Department of Agriculture regulations due to past disease outbreaks.
    NatureWorks included a modified zero food waste plan as best practices in the case studies.

    At both events Ei Partner Eco-Products stepped forward as a key in-kind event sponsor for BPI Certified compostable plates, flatware and beverage cups. In addition, Eco-Products played a vital role in education support and created clear signage for event food waste bins. Compostable bags were provided by Ei Partner NaturBag.

    AITC compost pile complete
    as the day segued into night 
    ideaLand confirmed Serenbe was open to adding post-consumer food waste & compostable packaging to their farm waste compost pile. Ei and Ei Supporter Community Environmental Management secured a Letter of Interpretation from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division stating the event food waste falls into Category I of the permit regulations; thus, a formal composting permit is not required within the regulations.

    With on-site composting, the carbon footprint associated with food waste composting was reduced from over 100 miles to the nearest state-permitted facility down to zero!

    Ei contracted with Let Us Compost (LUC) to orchestrate the on-site food waste compost operations at AITC | RayDay along with post-event follow-up.

    RayDay Embraces Path to Waste Reduction
    Ei Founder Holly Elmore
    showing the food truck signage
    photo courtesy Scott Seydel
    On October 11, 2015 the Ray C. Anderson Foundation (RCAF) hosted the third annual RayDay in a lovely Serenbe country meadow. Over 1400 guests celebrated Ray's legacy, learned at the plethora of educational booths, and enjoyed excellent cuisine served by The Food Movement (TFM) food trucks.

    A perfect scenario came together for RayDay: great, dry weather, paid Waste Ambassadors and one caterer. The event achieved zero food waste, including TFM's prep scraps from their kitchen.

    In the case study RCAF Executive Director John Lanier confirms the foundation's commitment to "walk their sustainability talk" with the following quote:
    "Waste is such a pervasive concept in our present day society, and efforts to reduce it should be advanced as often as possible. We at the Ray C. Anderson Foundation are particularly proud that we were able to achieve waste reduction success at our flagship annual event, RayDay."
    The ZWA Blog article, Simple, easy, proven steps culminate in zero food waste success, chronicles the RayDay impressive accomplishment. 

    Proven Steps Culminate Into Waste Reduction Success
    Known as one of Atlanta’s most unforgettable food and wine tasting events, AITC is a fund-raiser for local non-profits and scholarships for women in the culinary profession. The November 8, 2015 AITC was the event's 15th Anniversary, perfect timing to embark on formal zero food waste practices.

    Kristen preparingfood waste
    for compost in pouring rain.
    While a perfect scenario came together for RayDay, AITC was riddled with extraordinary challenges on event day. A rainy event day, coupled with prior ten days straight of rain, greeted event organizers, participants and guests with tremendous mud during set-up and throughout the event. ... and there were 90+ chefs | restaurants participating at AITC!

    Thanks to SuperHero Kristen Baskin, LUC owner, 1800 pounds of clean food waste were included in the on-farm compost pile. Throughout the day, Kristen kept the volunteers efficient weighing food waste bags as they arrived at the compost area, cleansing the food waste of contaminants, and sorting flatware for grinding before added to the pile. 

    The ZWA Blog article, Zero Food Waste Journeys: Successes, Challenges & Lessons Learned, chronicles how success prevailed through beyond challenging conditions. 

    Thank you NatureWorks!
    Extensive pre-planning and education were key ingredients for RayDay | AITC post-consumer food waste collection for on-site composting success. SFCI Co-Chair Doug Kunnemann with NatureWorks took the leadership role with SMAT work on the Ei Zero Food Waste Journeys. 

    Doug presenting at the 2015
    Annual Ei Partner Meeting
    A few months prior to the events, SMAT hosted a two-hour Compostable F&B Packaging Education Session for the AITC Sustainability Task Force; the session was a modification of the April Georgia World Congress Center-requested education seminar for Levy Restaurants. The ZWA Blog article, Compostable F&B Packaging: integral to zero waste programs and soil rebuilding, gives an in-depth overview of the session.

    Post-events, Doug led a 45-minute integrated presentation on the Ei Zero Food Waste Journeys at the 2015 Annual Ei Partner Meeting. At the January 2016 U.S. Composting Council Conference, Doug was the lead presenter on an Ei-hosted & NatureWorks-sponsored panel, Getting to Zero Waste: Composting at Special EventsThe ZWA Blog article, 2016 USCC Conference: Soils for a Greener World, showcases the Ei panel; PPT presentations are available for download on the Ei Speaking Engagements page.

    In his below quote Doug emphasizes the importance of collective team effort to establish zero food waste practices at annual events:
    Regardless of venue or festival size – a team effort will result in successful food and compostable food serviceware waste diversion. A collective effort led by Ei included the education of both venue service providers and attendee’s on the benefits of diverting food/compostable food serviceware waste streams from landfill to local - and  in both cases on-site composting. Final comment - you don’t need a large public or private commercial composting facility to deliver successful outcomes as both these case studies illustrate – all it takes is a focused team!
    The RayDay Embraces Path to Waste Reduction and Proven Steps Culminate Into Waste Reduction Success case studies validate the important role the events played in crafting post-consumer food waste best practices for annual events. Integral to success is the use of BPI Certified compostable packaging for food and beverage service ware.

    Eco-Products cold cups made
    with Ingeo
    NatureWorks is a world leading biopolymers supplier and innovator with its Ingeo portfolio of naturally advanced materials made from renewable, abundant feedstocks with performance and economics that compete with oil-based intermediates, plastics, and fibers, and provide brand owners new cradle-to-cradle options after the use of their products.

    ... and NatureWorks is a Founding Ei Partner, providing loyal support since the Green Foodservice Alliance (Ei's predessor) days! 

    A big thank you to Andy Cain for her excellent composition of the case studies from the plethora of Ei Zero Food Waste Journeys documentation.

    Case study pdf documents are available for download on the respective Ei pages, Afternoon in the Country and RayDay within the Zero Food Waste Journeys section.

    Thank you NatureWorks for publishing industry case studies that showcase what CAN be done when a powerful team works in unison. May others follow the well-documented path for zero food waste at annual events begun with RayDay | AITC.
  3. Recycling: The Business Case
    An article series: A Recycling or Contamination Crisis? Article #2

    In early November 2016, the ZWA Blog article, A Recycling or Contamination Crisis, an article series, published with acclaimed respect and empowering readership. Overall, the response to the article is a "Thank You" for clarifying the obvious, explaining the current recycling scenario, and invoking the Power of Consumer Demand to create solutions.

    The article's opening paragraph sets the tone for the big hauler perspective and responsibility for the current scenario:
    Over the past year numerous mainstream media articles presented a national recycling crisis. In John Tierney's October 2015 New York Times article The Reign of Recycling, Waste Management (WM) CEO David Steiner is quoted, "If you believe recycling is good for the planet and that we need to do more of it, then there’s a crisis to confront."
    Susan V. Collins
    photo courtesy of CRI
    Published to support the December 8 U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) | Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) Recycling: The Business Case webinar, the article was featured in webinar promotion.

    Elemental Impact Founder Holly Elmore moderated and co-presented the powerful Recycling: The Business Case webinar with Container Recycling Institute President Susan Collins. The webinar explained the current scenario, how we got here, and effective paths to recycling PROFIT centers.

    Current Scenario:

    In her presentation, Susan opened with recycling's benefits beyond landfill diversion. According to UPSTREAM (formerly the Product Policy Institute) research, 44% of U.S. Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions are generated from products and packaging. In addition to the GHG emissions, manufacturing virgin products is energy intensive, depletes the Earth's resources, and damages fragile local eco-systems. From Susan's presentation:
    In total, about 2.3 million American homes could have all their energy needs met (heating & cooling, cooking, utilities, etc.) with the amount of energy required to replace the beverage containers wasted in 2010.
    Contributing to wasted beverage containers is the high contamination levels within single-stream recycling, often the only option available for municipalities and businesses. According to 2015 CRI research, on average 75% of recyclables collected in single-stream are recycled into new products; on average 25% of single-stream recycling is landfill destined due to contamination.

    The following images from Susan's presentation clearly show the difference between glass separately collected via bottle bills (or other systems) and single-stream recycling glass:

    Bottle Bill Collected Glass vs. Single-Stream Collected Glass

    Many sustainability reports include collection stats versus actual recycled material stats. Thus, single-stream recycling inflates reported recycling rates and creates a false sense of accomplishment. In addition, high contamination rates understate the actual collection cost per ton. 

    A proven municipal successful recycling system is dual-stream recycling: fiber (paper, cardboard) is collected separate from containers (metal, plastic & glass).

    Kansas City consumer glass collection
    photo courtesy of Susan Collins
    It is important to follow the material and understand the final destination. WHY: 1> receive services paid for via hauling contracts and 2> reputation risk of false recycling reporting. For protection, Susan recommends material quality and actual recycling reporting provisions are included in hauler contracts.

    Susan concluded her impressive presentation with examples of successful municipal recycling systems in the U.S. and abroad. For the City of Los Angeles, the newly launched program requires better material reporting and recycling facilities must be certified. An overall program emphasis: higher quality materials create better jobs locally.

    Recycling PROFIT Centers

    In her presentation, Holly focused on recycling PROFIT centers supported by success stories. While Susan included municipal recycling examples, Holly's focus was the corporate | organization arena.

    The Path to a Recycling Business Model slide set the stage for Holly's presentation:
    • Organization Culture | Top Management Buy-In.
    • Material Baseline Assessment | Local Available Infrastructure.
    • Clear Program Communication & Training.
    • Reward & Promote Successes.
    • Take Baby steps, lots & lots of baby steps.
    Holly emphasized the list was not chronological and steps often intertwined.

    Organization Culture | Top Management Buy-In

    Corporate culture dictates acceptable and unacceptable behavior within daily operations. Ultimately, top management sets the overall corporate culture through policy, reward systems, and program support. Top management reports to the Board of Directors and shareholders and is the steward of the organization's bottom line. For top management's complete buy-in, a recycling program must improve the bottom-line or at the very least be cost-neutral.

    In companies with an empowering culture, the organization's zero waste commitment is included in employee hiring and training processes. A Green Team is established with the team leader in a decision-making position, or at least with direct access to a decision-maker. Green Team participation is written into the employee's job description - VERY important at performance review time!

    Piazza Produce Green Team
    photo courtesy of Scott Lutocka
    Successful Green Teams are comprised of members from across the organization's departments including operations, janitorial and administrative. The team meets on a regular basis and shares within their respective departments.

    Employees experience inefficiencies within daily operations and are often the best avenue for waste reduction and recycling improvement ideas. It is important to encourage, recognize, and reward employees who contribute suggestions for program enhancement.

    Supported by the organization's culture, employee perspectives shift from viewing operation by-products as "trash" to valuable material. In addition, clean material is perceived as a revenue generator while contaminated items are viewed as a business expense.

    WE Consciousness is key to program success! Across the organization, employees must work in unison towards clearly defined, common goals. The Green Team establishes protocol and practices included in employee training and communicated via signage through out the facility.

    ... and WE Consciousness extends beyond the organization's boundaries. It is important to work as a team with suppliers, purveyors, waste | recycling haulers, and customers to minimize waste and maximize reuse and recycling. 

    The WE Consciousness was introduced in the September 2012 ZWA Blog article, Zero Waste is a Team Sport. The May 2013 ZWA article, Zero Waste Success Requires WE Consciousness, chronicles the 2013 National Zero Waste Business Conference's impressive program.

    Material Baseline Assessment | Program Parameters

    Waste audit in-process
    photo courtesy The Pitt News
    One of the first action steps in crafting a recycling program is establishing the material baseline via a waste audit. Performed by the waste hauler or a third party contractor, an audit generally consists of spreading a waste compactor contents on a tarp to separate the recyclable material from the trash. 

    It is important the Green Team attends the waste audit and documents it via video and still photos. If available, recruit top management to attend; they will see first-hand the cost of sending valuable material to the landfill. Remember: make the waste audit FUN to maximize effectiveness!

    The waste audit will identify the recycling "easy wins:" 1> highest value material and 2> largest quantity of material type. 

    Source-separated CLEAN material is the foundation of a recycling PROFIT center! For smaller generators, dual-stream recycling (containers separated from fiber) may work well as long material does NOT go to a single-stream recycling MRF.

    A next step is to determine local end markets available for the material. In many cities, there are grass roots recycling companies who collect moderate amounts of source-separated material. Non-profits and government offices are an excellent resource for local recycling options. 

    The following proven Program Parameters were presented:
    Total Material Management Approach
    - Entire material stream evaluated in one cost | revenue center.

    - Materials with solid end markets (e.g. aluminum, mixed paper, certain plastics) subsidize more challenging streams generated in operations such as food waste and glass.
    Metrics system 
    -Important to track | report program financial, tonnage recycled and other successes.

    - Key to on-site material source separation.
    - Mini-balers are perfect for small to moderate generators. 

    Clear Program Communication & Training

    For success, clear concise communication supported by training is critical. Once the Green Team establishes the parties responsible for disposition, communication tools are crafted for the targeted audience. Internal signage may differ from signage designed for facility guests.

    At most organizations multi-lingual signage supported with images, possibly with product samples, reaps strong benefits for intended disposition. In general, signage placed at eye level is most effective.

    The following recycling bin best practices are well proven:
    Ga Tech recycling center
    photo courtesy Ga Tech
    • Always place trash & recycling bins together.
    • Use bins with holes that match the material collected.
    • Place signage at eye level.
    • Use material images to convey proper sorting.
    • Strategically place recycling centers in high traffic areas.
    NOTE: melted ice from fountain soft drinks and other beverages is a BIG contaminant in recycling streams where plastics & paper are together. To prevent water contamination, collect beverage containers separate from fiber. Where practical, include a disposable option for ice.

    In general, higher volume material generation resides in the operations back-of-the-house. Once the material flow is determined, allocate a convenient space to create recycling centers for collection and baling. Clearly label large containers for their respective item collection. In addition, determine a space to store bales until sufficient quantity is accumulated to warrant a hauler pick-up.

    Back-of-the-house bin & signage
    For administrative offices, develop a program that involves active participation. Georgia Institute of Technology devised a three-bin desk system where the tiny black bin was designated for trash. While janitorial staff collects the recycling bin contents, the employee takes their trash to the closest copy room for landfill disposal. With this system, the employee is aware of the quantity, frequency and type of trash generated.

    It is important to monitor recycling programs. Contamination notices are issued for "mistakes" and clean material is recognized.

    Whether third party contracted or in-house, the janitorial staff is a critical program component. In general, janitorial staff are responsible for recycling | trash bins content disposal. Using WE Consciousness, it is imperative to educate, nurture and reward the staff to ensure proper disposition. If third party contracted, ensure recycling program parameters are included in the janitorial agreement upon renewal.

    Clever, creative signage infiltrated with humor is most effective!

    Reward & Promote Successes

    As stated previously, it is important Green Team participation is written into formal position responsibilities and incorporated into performance review procedures. Internal recognition of Green Team membership and responsibilities through employee newsletters, memorandums or other effective methods garners fellow associate respect for members.

    Scott Lutocka with Piazza
    Produce Awards
    Regular recycling lunch 'n learn sessions substantiate management's program commitment. In addition, the sessions are excellent times for employees to share ideas for fine-tuning the existing practices. When ideas segue into waste reduction or increased material recycling, reward the associate with recognition along with financial incentives (if appropriate.)

    In addition to internal program promotion, share recycling tonnage and financial stats via press releases or other publicity vehicles. Encourage Green Team members to participate in local, regional and national conferences to educate on challenges, lessons learned and successes.  Apply for certifications and other awards that recognize the organization as a community leader. Beyond a huge employee morale boost, success stories inspire others to embark on their own recycling journey.

    Most importantly:
    Take Baby Steps
    lots & lots of baby steps!

    Recycling Success Cases

    To validate recycling PROFIT centers are a feasible destination, Holly featured several USZWBC member programs.
    The "AMAZING Cindy Jackson"
    photo courtesy of Ga Tech
    Thanks to the "AMAZING Cindy Jackson," Ga Tech never succumbed to single-stream recycling, despite immense pressure from their waste hauler and university management. Out of tremendous respect, Holly refers to her good friend as AMAZING in introductions and everyone agrees.

    In fiscal year 2016, Ga Tech earned $60,000 on recyclable sales including cardboard, metals, office paper, plastics, glass, pallets, aluminum, and other less common items. The $60,000 does not take into account the cost-savings achieved by reduced landfill hauling and tipping charges. Overall, in 2016 Ga Tech recycled 3.7 million pounds of material, including 743,000 pounds of food waste collected for compost.

    As mentioned in the Clear Program Communication & Training section, in 2012 Ga Tech augmented their award-winning program with administrative office desk side recycling.

    Earth Friendly Products (EFP)

    EFP employee garden 
    Impressive: EFP's five U.S. plants are ZWFC at the platinum level!!! Under the direction of EFP Vice-President of Sustainability & Education Nadereh Afsharmanesh, employees work within a zero waste culture supported by top management. The results are incredible!

    Using a hands-on approach, Nadereh nurtures the culture via monthly employee lunches with educational topics that extend beyond recycling to health, nutrition and joyful living. In the back of the Garden Grove, CA plant, EFP created a lovely garden area for employees to enjoy at lunch and during breaks. The garden is complete with fresh herbs, beautiful flowers and a living wall.

    Employees share their ideas for further waste reduction and there is evidence throughout the plant: 
    • Reused plastic jugs earmarked for toilet paper cardboard cores are on bathroom counter tops.
    • Small bins for staples and pens, pencils & markers staged for upcycling are in the office supply area.
    • Polystyrene packing peanuts are given to the local UPS Store for reuse.
    TP core collection bin
    EFP's zero waste commitment extends to their supply chain who must complete a sustainability checklist and explain any negative responses. Nadereh visits suppliers and educates them on how to set-up successful recycling systems.

    Amidst soft commodity markets in 2015, EFP's recycling program earned a $21,600 profit. From 2011 - 2015, EFP earned a cumulative $318,000 profit on their recycling program, including $205,000 in revenue and $113,000 in reduced hauling costs.

    Inside Supply Management's (ISM) October 2016 cover story, Full Circle: Supply management can play a key role in the circular economy, working with suppliers to eliminate waste and drive financial value, features EFP's impressive recycling program and supplier relationships. The ZWA Blog article, Zero waste moves from "best" to standard operating practices, includes an ISM article recap along with commentary.

    Sierra Nevada Brewery (SNB)

    In November 2013 SNB was awarded the FIRST Platinum ZWFC facility! The associated audit revealed SNB reused, re-purposed or recycled 99.8% of discards from operations. Key to SNB's success is material source-separation of cardboard, shrink wrap, glass, cans, bottles, paper, plastics, batteries, light tubes, computers, construction debris, and wood.

    SNB clean plastic ready for baling
    photo courtesy of SNB
    SNB Sustainability Manager Cheri Chastain emphasizes "closing the loop" with the brewery, on-site pub and estate agriculture. In September 2010 SNB invested in a Hot Rot, a New Zealand in-vessel composting system, for the pub food waste and brewery organic by-products. In turn, the Hot Rot compost is used within the estate agriculture to grow food served in the pub and hops | barley for the brewery.

    At SNB the recycling program is a strong profit center. In 2015, SNB recycled 5.9 million pounds of various materials (without spent grain) and earned $416,900 net profit, consisting of $41,800 in revenue, $33,000 in program costs and $408,100 in avoided costs.

    Gold ZWFC PP earned $288,000 in recycling center profits during the soft 2015 commodity markets. As a USZWBC Board Member (now a GBCI Zero Waste Advisory Council member), PP Facility Manager Scott Lutocka shares his recycling wisdom across the nation at conferences and beyond.  A famous phrase from Scott's presentations:
    There’s Ca$h in Your Tra$h!” and “You don’t know what you don’t know (about the value in your waste stream)!
    Scott Lutocka at baler
    According to Scott, several keys to creating a recycling PROFIT Center include:
    • Clean source-separation of material.
    • Teamwork across company department boundaries.
    • Close working relationships with recycling partners. 
    From program inception in 2006 through 2016, PP experienced total recycling, compost, & waste diversion savings of $1.75 Million Dollars!

    To download Susan and Holly's comprehensive Recycling: The Business Case PPT presentations, visit the Ei Speaking Engagements page.


    SNB clean cardboard bales
    photo courtesy SNB
    WM complains they are losing money on their self-invented single-stream recycling and there is a recycling crisis. Yet industry pioneers prove recycling PROFIT centers continue to thrive amidst the soft commodity markets. As reinforced by the above examples, several keys to success are a top management commitment at a foundation level, employee engagement across department boundaries, and source-separated, clean material ready for sale.

    Though they may still have contracts with the big haulers for the small amount of remaining waste, the pioneers work with an array of local and regional companies to collect their material bales (or otherwise contained). It is important to note, at this juncture, the big haulers are NOT part of the recipe for profitable recycling programs.

    Article #2 in the A Recycling or Contamination Crisis, ends with same empowering paragraph as Article #1:

    It is time for the corporate community to exercise their power of consumer demand when it comes to materials management and resource recovery. Once industry leaders break the single-stream cycle, the big haulers will follow with crafting an alternative, effective system. Simple Economics 101 may prove the best pathway to fixing a broken recycling system riddled with contamination.
  4. A Comparative Case Study: Plastic Film Recycling at Two Simon Malls
    At the November 17 Annual Elemental Impact (Ei) Annual Partner Meeting, Tonya Randell with Moore Recycling Associates announced the Comparative Case Study: Plastic Film Recycling at Two Simon Malls release. Prepared by Ei on behalf of W.R.A.P. - Wrap Recycling Action Program, the case study chronicles the Charlotte plastic film recycling programs pioneered within the Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) - Shopping Mall Pilot

    Initiated by members of the American Chemistry Council's Flexible Film Recycling Group in partnership with GreenBlue's Sustainable Packaging Coalition and The Association of Plastic Recyclers, W.R.A.P.'s purpose is to reinvigorate plastic film recycling. The goal is to double recycling to 2 billion tons by 2020.

    In 2011 Ei Industry Experts & Pioneers embarked on a commercial plastic film recycling journey targeted at moderate generators where standard-sized bale assembly was not practical. Development of a city-wide plastic film recycling template was the intended destination. 

    In the 2010 | 2011 time frame, plastic film generated at shopping malls skyrocketed due to shifts in garment packaging. Previously, garments were bulk packaged for retail sales. With significant increases in internet sales, manufacturers shifted to individual, clear plastic film garment packaging for shipping.

    Doug Stoner, Louis & Matt at
    first plastic film recycling meeting
    With the introduction of commercial single-stream recycling - paper fibers, metals and other recyclable materials mixed together for the collection vehicle - the higher plastic film volume increased a mall's waste hauling expenses. Single-stream recycling is delivered to a MRF (materials recovery facility) where the material is separated via an integrated system of conveyor belts, optical sorting, blowers, and hand separation. Since it wraps around the sorting equipment, plastic film is considered a contaminant in single-stream recycling.

    Yet plastic film is a valuable commodity when collected separately and baled for sale. Historically, plastic film rebates exceed OCC (old corrugated cardboard) by three to five times on a per pound basis. Thus, there is a strong business case for separated plastic film recycling at malls: film rebates and reduced landfill hauling | tipping charges more than offset program costs.

    A strong Ei Team came together to create a shopping mall plastic film recycling program template. Ei Partner Louis Herrera of Novolex (then Hilex Poly) was the visionary who devised the overall plan. As a major plastic bag manufacturer, Novolex was eager to purchase the film as post-consumer recycled content for their bag production.

    Ray is all smiles with his
    Orwak baler
    The mall plastic film recycling model centered around on-site baling. Ei Partner Mark Lanning of Orwak shared his expertise on setting up on-site baling systems. A baler manufacturer, Orwak offers a mini baler perfect for a small recycling center located in a mall's back-of-the-house.

    Ei Industry Pioneer Simon Malls was eager to recycle the abundant film generated by their tenants. In addition to cost-savings incentives, major national tenants were pressuring Simon to recycle their plastic film. Then Simon Director of Waste & Recycling Matt Hupp worked closely with the Ei Team on program development.

    A Charlotte Simon Mall, Concord Mills (CM) - the SFCI Shopping Center Pilot - was selected as the first mall plastic film recycling pilot. In addition to excellent mall logistics, CM General Manager Ray Soporowski was an industry veteran committed to sustainability and "doing the right thing." The stage was set!

    First on the agenda was a visit to Simon's hometown Indianapolis for a tour | education of a typical Simon Mall. The following day Hilex Poly (now Novolex) hosted a tour of their plastic film recycling plant a couple hours south in North Vernon, IN.

    The Ei Team @ Concord Mills
    On the second tour, Matt, Louis and Ei Founder Holly Elmore traveled to Charlotte. The trio met with CM & SouthPark Mall management to assess the current plastic film status. SouthPark is a sister Simon Mall located within Mecklenburg County. During the second tour, Mecklenburg County Government joined forces with the Ei Team and provided a local support network.

    In August 2012 the CM plastic film recycling pilot launched with ease, grace & celebration. The following month SouthPark launched their plastic film recycling program.

    For the case study ROI (return on investment) analysis, CM and SouthPark 2015 calendar year program stats were used. At the Annual Ei Partner Meeting, Tonya brought several hard copies of the case study published three days earlier.

    Ei's pioneering role in commercial plastic film recycling is documented on the Plastic Film Recycling website page. The Ei FB album, Source-Separated Materials Recycling: building a city-wide network, is a pictorial recap of the work-in-progress. Note the Plastic Film Recycling Template expanded to the Source-Separated Material Recycling Template.

    Plastic film ready for the baler
    The IMPACT Blog article, Ei 2016: Year of Recognition, chronicles the powerful 2016 Annual Ei Meeting and features Tonya's presentation on the case study and beyond.

    With the Comparative Case Study: Plastic Film Recycling at Two Simon Malls release, the Ei Team is ready to reconvene with W.R.A.P. and continue the profound work started with Simon Malls. The platform is built, the stage is set, and Ei is anxious to continue pioneering commercial plastic film recycling programs.
  5. A Recycling or Contamination Crisis? an article series
    Over the past year numerous mainstream media articles presented a national recycling crisis. In John Tierney's October 2015 New York Times article The Reign of Recycling, Waste Management (WM) CEO David Steiner is quoted, "If you believe recycling is good for the planet and that we need to do more of it, then there’s a crisis to confront."

    Ei Chair Scott Seydel in front of a
    MRF single-stream recycling delivery
    Yet the crisis seems to revolve around WM's profitability within single-stream recycling systems. According to the September 2015 Fortune article The American recycling business is a mess: Can Big Waste fix it?, single-stream recycling is a sorting method WM pioneered in 2001. Under WM and other large waste hauler influence, single-stream recycling evolved into the only available option for curbside and corporate recycling programs in many municipalities.

    In single-stream recycling, common recyclable materials - fiber (cardboard, paper), plastics, metals and glass - are placed in a single bin for later sorting at a Materials Recovery Facility (MRF). Once sorted by type, material is baled for sale within the commodity market. Beginning around 2009 the big waste haulers started switching over to single-stream recycling as their offered service.

    Unfortunately, contamination was rampant in single-stream recycling systems from its introduction. Contamination generally falls into three categories: 1> non-recyclable items 2> food & melted ice and 3> glass. 

    In the beginning, many of the non-recyclable items in single-stream collection were due to lack of clear signage and consumer confusion. For example, bin signage may read "Plastics," rather than the specific accepted plastics. Thus, consumers include ALL plastics - lawn chairs, hoses etc. - in the single-stream bin.

    Food waste on recyclable foodservice packaging is contamination. In addition to rendering the packaging unfit for recycling, the food waste may contaminate nearby material. Water (melted ice from fountain soft drinks and other beverages) causes paper to stick to plastics; the paper and plastic are impractical to separate in MRF sorting systems. Therefore, the plastic, along with the paper stuck to it, are deposited in the landfill-destined trash pile.

    MRF separated glass - filled with
    plastic & paper contamination
    Most single-stream recycling is collected in packer trucks where the material is crushed for transportation. When crushed, glass breaks into small shards that contaminate the paper, plastics and metals in the load. Additionally, glass (essentially sand) causes significant wear and tear on hauling trucks and MRF sorting equipment.

    In December 2009 the Container Recycling Institute (CRI) issued the comprehensive Understanding economic and environmental impacts of single-stream collection systems white paper. Within the paper, research findings forewarned of single-stream perils: single-stream recycling increases diversion from landfill rates yet decreases recycling rates due to contamination.

    The U.S. EPA Sustainable Materials Management Web Academy presented the webinar, Single-Stream Recycling: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly, in July 2011. Within the webinar, the presenters address the effectiveness of a system designed for ease of collection. The ZWA Blog article, Single-Stream Recycling: The Good, the Bad & the Ugly, gives a synopsis of the informative webinar.

    If contamination was rampant since launching, how did the waste haulers make the necessary profits to drive single-stream recycling to the predominant, often only, recycling option available for communities and corporations at-large?

    2015 McCormick Place recycling bin
    w/ clear signage, next to waste bin.
    The answer is within commodity market pricing. As the recycling commodity markets regained strength from the 2008 pricing plummets, MRFs made profits even with significant contamination. Markets for contaminated material remained reasonably stable with China purchasing the strong majority of the "dirty material."

    Large waste haulers often invested in their own MRFs to complement landfill investments. Thus, the hauler collected tipping fees from landfill-bound, contaminated MRF material.

    A robust commodity market through mid-2014 masked the contamination flaws within single-stream recycling systems.

    Beginning in mid-2014, recycling commodity market pricing started a downward spiral. At the same time China cut U.S. purchases significantly and demanded cleaner material. Contaminated material prices severely declined and in some instances the market disintegrated. Suddenly, contaminated material was perceived as an expensive program cost versus a system by-product. 

    For larger generators, on-site source separation is best materials management practices and improves the bottom line. As noted in the ZWA Blog article, Zero waste moves from "best" to standard operating practices, the Piazza Produce source-separated material recycling program generated $288,000 of cost-savings in 2015; the program continued to improve the bottom line during soft recycling markets.

    Separated material at the
    S-SMRT Pilot
    As a raw material in manufacturing operations, clean recyclable material retains value. When there are strong local markets, larger generators often circumvent the commodities market and sell directly to the manufacturer. The Elemental Impact (Ei) Source-Separated Materials Recycling Template (S-SRT) is grounded in clean material source-separation and direct, local sales to manufacturers. Committed to integrity, the S-SRT tagline is Contamination is a Mistake!

    Thus, the recycling crisis touted by David Steiner in mainstream media is a contamination crisis.

    As the first in a series, this article's purpose is to establish the contamination crisis scenario. Following articles will address available solutions to overhaul corporate recycling programs, whether at an individual location or for the municipality, into systems that make good business, community and environmental sense.

    In general, the articles will address corporate recycling with little to no focus on curbside recycling. Intended topics include:
    • Waste Prevention - working with the supply chain on transport packaging to eliminate trash packaging; ensuring no waste is created when products are sold to customers.
    • WE Consciousness | Culture - ensuring organization employees work in unison toward common goals within a supportive corporate culture; includes working in partnership with the supply chain and customers.
      clear communication at
      an employee bulletin board
    • Hauler | Generator Responsibility - taking responsibility for contamination within a recycling stream; using WE Consciousness, the hauler & customer work together to craft recycling programs that generate clean streams; culture plays a critical role.
    • Clear Communication - educating employers and guests on proper placement for material and trash; includes clear, effective signage & best bin practices.
    • Local Infrastructure - working with grass roots recycling companies on flexible programs unique to the local end markets; may attract new manufacturers to the local market if a significant volume of their raw material is generated within the community.
    With a positive flavor, the articles will focus on success stories and how to engineer profitable recycling systems.

    It is time for the corporate community to exercise their power of consumer demand when it comes to materials management and resource recovery. Once industry leaders break the single-stream cycle, the big haulers will follow with crafting an alternative, effective system. Simple Economics 101 may prove the best pathway to fixing a broken recycling system riddled with contamination.
  6. Zero waste moves from "best" to standard operating practices
    With recent industry developments, zero waste segues from "the green thing to do" into respected material management that makes good business and environmental sense. Veteran zero waste companies substantiate clean, contaminant-free material source-separated on-site improves the corporate bottom line, even in "soft" recycling markets.

    USZWB Board & USGBC President
    signing the official agreement
    Further validating zero waste's prominent role in corporate material management, the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) announced on October 5 they joined forces with the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) to advance zero business practices. USZWBC will integrate into the global Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) community that drives sustainability across all sectors. 

    GBCI will assume responsibility for the ongoing management and evolution of the Zero Waste Facility Certification (ZWFC) and Zero Waste Business Associate programs created by USZWBC. Zero waste principles will align with GBCI’s offerings. 

    The ZWFC joins a family of prominent certifications administered by the GBCI: the PEER standard for power systems, the WELL building standard, the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), Parksmart, EDGE (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiency) and the GRESB benchmark, which is used by institutional investors to improve the sustainability performance of the global property sector. 

    As the home to LEED - Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design - Certification, the USGBC is the recognized global standard for sustainable building design, construction, operations and maintenance.

    The ZWA Blog article, USGBC Empowers Zero Waste Industry: USGBC & USZWBC join forces, details the monumental industry announcement.

    Along with the USGBC, national trade associations are vehicles to educate the corporate community on the zero waste business value. In October two prominent industry trade associations - the Institute for Supply Management (ISM) and the National Wooden Pallet & Container Association (NWPCA) - published front cover zero waste articles in their October hard copy magazines.

    Pallet Central:

    Published by the NWPCA, Pallet Central features Zero Waste Makes Good Business & Environmental Sense as the September | October issue front cover story. Written by Elemental Impact Founder Holly Elmore on behalf of the USZWBC, the article is introductory in nature.

    For zero waste success, two prime ingredients are necessary: 1> a culture shift from waste management to materials management and 2> a practical staged-in approach complete with education, clear signage, and employee engagement. Top management buy-in is critical to shifting corporate culture along with providing employee incentives and support. Quantifying, communicating and rewarding success builds strong enthusiasm and support for long-term zero waste program success.

    A first step on the zero waste journey is a waste audit. An audit determines the baseline of current practices in-place as well as the quantity and type of materials generated at the facility. In addition, the audit reveals the "easy win" areas, which are perfect program starting points.

    Throughout the article, the strong business case for zero waste is emphasized. For example, in 2015 Gold Level ZWFC Piazza Produce “sold” 733.8 tons of wood pallets (roughly 66,700 pallets) for approximately $163,500. In contrast, estimated landfill charges for the pallets were $65,700, including hauling and tipping fees.

    USZWBC Board Member and Piazza Produce Facility Manager Scott Lutocka often says “There’s Ca$h in Your Tra$h!” and “You don’t know what you don’t know (about the value in your waste stream)!” … and Scott understands well the cash value of Piazza Produce trash! 

    Scott by the hardworking
    Piazza baler
    In 2015 alone, the Piazza Produce zero waste program generated $288,034 in cost-savings. Since launching in 2005, Piazza Produce enjoyed a cumulative $1.56 million in bottom line improvements from successful zero waste practices. Even with the soft recycling markets, established corporate zero waste programs continue to produce cost-savings and improve the bottom line. 

    Zero waste is a team sport! Product packaging, including manufacturing raw materials, is a significant contributor to landfill-destined items. By working in tandem with the supply chain, recyclable or reusable packaging may often replace "trash" packaging.

    Platinum ZWFC at their five U.S. Plants, Earth Friendly Products (EFP) established a Supplier Code of Conduct including a sustainability questionnaire. Negative questionnaire answers require an explanation. With team spirit, EFP trains their suppliers on zero waste practices. EFP Vice-President of Sustainability and Education Nadereh Afsharmanesh visits vendor manufacturing plants to witness zero waste practices in-place and provide helpful recommendations.

    As it closes, the article notes the pathway to zero waste success is well established with the pioneers open to sharing their lessons learned and proven practices implemented. USZWBC veteran members share experiences with those embarking on the zero waste journey. According to USZWBC Founder & Executive Director Stephanie Barger: 
    “USZWBC is a solutions based organization and provides many resources for their members and the community to vet ideas and challenges. Our Advisory Board members can assist with working on solutions for individuals or an industry along with leading task forces or developing technical committees for more challenging long-term issues. Our resource library contains toolkits, case studies and other educational information.”
    Inside Supply Management

    While the Pallet Central article was introductory in nature, Inside Supply Management's (ISM) October cover story, Full Circle: Supply management can play a key role in the circular economy, working with suppliers to eliminate waste and drive financial value, delves into the broader spectrum inherent within the circular economy. ISM is the Institute for Supply Management's official industry publication.

    Written by ISM Publications Coordinator Lisa Arnseth, the article is an excellent overview of zero waste's role within the circular economy along with specific examples. Dell Computers is a prime article feature with their impressive closed loop commitment. Jennifer Allison, Dell director of supply chain sustainability, emphasizes the importance of a systems approach with her quote:
    “One of the most important things in understanding the circular economy is that we’re talking about systems — not just products, programs or initiatives. Looking at the whole system is when change begins to make a significant difference. Technology is a great tool for measuring and analyzing systems, understanding processes and identifying inefficiencies.”
    EFP is another article feature. Using quotes and examples provided by Nadereh, the article gives examples of EFP's team work with their supply chain. Nadereh's hands-on approach with supply chain management is effective at preventing "trash" packaging.

    Within the circular economy, the zero waste definition is beyond material management practices at a particular manufacturing or other facility. Waste inherent within delivered products is critical to achieving circular economy zero waste. If a product was manufactured in a wasteful facility, then the product brings intangible waste into the customer's operations. 

    Working in tandem with their supply chain, EFP supports their zero waste demands with complimentary training. As mentioned in the Pallet Central article, Nadereh visits supplier operations to monitor material management systems in-place and offer assistance.

    An industry leader, ISM published The Journey to a Zero Waste Supply Chain in March 2013 written by Ei Founder Holly Elmore. The ZWA Blog article, Supply Chain Critical to Zero Waste Success, gives an article overview along with examples from Subaru's operations.

    Nadereh with recycling bins
    on the plant floor
    When researching the October article, Lisa reconnected with Holly for industry referrals and an in-depth interview. Emphasizing the team spirit approach to working with the supply chain, Holly says "“Remember, it’s about working in a partnership with suppliers, and not dictating changes. Go to the table with your suppliers and work together.”

    The article copy flows from the big circular economy picture to specific details for implementing a successful zero waste program. Nadereh advises "“Look for small wins, and build on those foundations.”

    As the article closes, the importance of corporate culture is emphasized with Holly's quote:
     “It’s a matter of corporate culture, stemming from the C-suite, the board of directors and the stockholders. Sustainability is a long-term commitment that requires, at times, short-term investments or temporary financial shortcomings. But in the long run, if it is done with integrity and committed planning with the right resources plugged in, the ROI will be there."

    Global leaders like Dell are grounding the pathway to a future circular economy; national icons like Piazza Produce and EFP are substantiating the current economics inherent within strong materials management

    With the USGBC and prominent trade associations embracing zero waste as a core business value, zero waste moves beyond best operating practices into standard operating practices. Stay tuned to witness how the powerful synergies flow into a "world without waste!"
  7. USGBC Empowers Zero Waste Industry: USGBC & USZWBC join forces
    This summer the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) stepped into Zero Waste WE Consciousness with an empowering announcement!

    On July 1, 2016, the USGBC issued a LEED Interpretation allowing documentation for a facility certified by the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) to stand in for several LEED for Building Operations and Maintenance (LEED O+M) prerequisites and credits. The USGBC's aim is to reduce the burden for buildings pursuing both certifications.

    Now, if a building earned USZWBC Zero Waste Facility Certification (ZWFC) and the scope of the project (i.e., the project boundary) is the same as a project pursuing LEED O+M certification, the USZWBC certification can be used to document LEED credits, provided the corresponding USZWBC credit is earned. A scorecard for the ZWFC must be provided to demonstrate specific credit achievement.

    As the home to LEED - Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design - Certification, the USGBC is the recognized global standard for sustainable building design, construction, operations and maintenance.

    The ZWA Blog article, USGBC Steps in Zero Waste WE Consciousness, announces the important industry achievement and defines WE Consciousness.

    ... and on October 5, 2016 the USGBC fully immerses in Zero Waste WE Consciousness with the following announcement: 
    The USGBC and USZWBC are formally joining forces to advance zero waste business practices. USZWBC will be integrated into the global Green Business Certification Inc. (GBCI) community that drives sustainability across all sectors. GBCI will assume responsibility for the ongoing management and evolution of the ZWFC and Zero Waste Business Associate programs created by USZWBC, and the Zero Waste principles will be aligned with GBCI’s offerings.
    Established in 2008, GBCI exclusively administers project certifications and professional credentials and certificates within the framework of the USGBC’s LEED green building rating systems. Through rigorous certification and credentialing standards, GBCI drives adoption of green business practices, which fosters global competitiveness and enhances environmental performance and human health benefits.

    Mahesh Ramanujam
    GBCI is taking another important step toward creating a holistic strategy for green business that began when the U.S. Green Business Council (USGBC) launched the LEED green building rating system 16 years ago,” said Mahesh Ramanujam, president, GBCI, and COO, (USGBC). “By reducing and eliminating the volume and toxicity of waste and materials and aligning green rating systems, we are one step further in transforming the market to be more sustainable.

    The ZWFC joins a family of prominent certifications administered by the GBCI: the PEER standard for power systems, the WELL building standard, the Sustainable Sites Initiative (SITES), Parksmart, EDGE (Excellence in Design for Greater Efficiency) and the GRESB benchmark, which is used by institutional investors to improve the sustainability performance of the global property sector. 

    Since its 2012 inception, the USZWBC adopted the Zero Waste International Alliance's zero waste definition:
    Zero Waste is a goal that is ethical, economical, efficient and visionary, guiding people to change their lifestyles and practices to emulate sustainable natural cycles, where all discarded materials are designed to become resources for others to use. Zero Waste means designing and managing products and processes to systematically avoid and eliminate the volume and toxicity of waste and materials, conserve and recover all resources and not burn or bury them. Implementing Zero Waste will eliminate all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health.
    Alignment with the USGBC | GBCI will propel zero waste success from its current material focus to encompass all discharges to land, water or air that are a threat to planetary, human, animal or plant health - a monumental leap forward towards a truly sustainable world!

    When it launched in 2013, the ZWFC parameters aligned with credit requirements of LEED O+M. Thus, the USGBC | GBCI | USZWBC is a natural joining of forces with monumental industry implications. With USGBC support, zero waste is destined to move beyond best operating practices into standard operating practices.

    Stephanie Barger, USZWBC Founder and Executive Director, confirms the sentiment: USZWBC is so excited to join the GBCI family. By spearheading a comprehensive certification and training program, we have already made huge strides in shifting attitudes and behaviors of large and small companies to focus upstream with managing waste. With GBCI’s influence we will be able to further the integrity and credibility of Zero Waste and create a Zero Waste Economy for all!

    USGBC intends to honor current USZWBC memberships, sponsorships, and partnerships. As the USZWBC Official Media Partner, Elemental Impact is thrilled for the invigorated zero waste horizons. Time will reveal how the phenomenal potentials ground into powerful realities.
  8. USGBC Steps into Zero Waste WE Consciousness
    In September 2012 the ZWA Blog article, Zero Waste is a Team Sport, detailed three consciousness shifts necessary for zero waste success on company and community levels:

    First, the "pay and forget" era is over; the consumer must take responsibility for the by-products generated from their activities and ensure materials are reused, repurposed or recycled. The Elemental Impact (Ei) Recycling Integrity page dives deeper into the holographic approach necessary to ensure integrity is maintained throughout the entire material management process.

    food waste composting
    Second, waste management is replaced by materials / by-products management. In nature there is no "waste"; it is time to emulate nature's perpetual life cycle system. Food waste composting is an example of a system following nature's no-waste baseline.

    Third, the "I" focus is replaced with the "WE" focus. The impact of our actions extends to the entire community and beyond; collective action accomplishes more profound results than singular effort. By working together, synergies are unlocked, unnecessary boundaries, including competitive barriers, disintegrate, and creative energies catapult possibilities into grounded realities.

    Zero waste initiatives offer tangible opportunities to incorporate the consciousness shifts into standard operating practices. Once a company accepts the first two shifts, action is ready to begin with the third shift.

    Thus, the WE Consciousness was introduced as a core Ei value.

    ... and this summer the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) stepped into Zero Waste WE Consciousness with a monumental announcement. As the home to LEEDLeadership in Energy and Environmental Design - Certification, the USGBC is the recognized global standard for sustainable building design, construction, operations and maintenance.

    On July 1, 2016, the USGBC issued a LEED Interpretation allowing documentation for a facility certified by the U.S. Zero Waste Business Council (USZWBC) to stand in for several LEED for Building Operations and Maintenance (LEED O+M) prerequisites and credits. The USGBC's aim is to reduce the burden for buildings pursuing both certifications.

    Now, if a building earned USZWBC Zero Waste Facility Certification and the scope of the project (i.e., the project boundary) is the same as a project pursuing LEED O+M certification, the USZWBC certification can be used to document the following LEED credits, provided the corresponding USZWBC credit is earned. A scorecard for the USZWBC Zero Waste Facility Certification must be provided to demonstrate specific credit achievement.

    According to USZWBC Founder & Executive Director Stephanie Barger:
    Stephanie with Bob Gedert
    of Austin Resource Recovery
    “This LEED Interpretation meets one of our major goals in creating the Zero Waste Facility Certification, which is to leverage existing certification guidelines to enhance not duplicate business practices. Our organization can provide the expertise to drive policies and practices in creating a zero waste economy so all companies can benefit from better markets, services and performance measures.”
    Inherent within the USGBC LEED Interpretation is an underlying statement of WE Consciousness, the importance of industry leaders working in unison toward common goals. 

    Thank you to the USZWBC for your pioneering spirit in crafting the Zero Waste Facility Certification, a well documented and substantiated program. Thank you to the USGBC for your team spirit, exemplary industry leadership, and working within the WE Consciousness

    As the creative energies within the WE Consciousness unleash, the industry is staged to catapult beyond perceived boundaries into a new world of possibilities - EXCITING!!!!
  9. Georgia World Congress Center honored for stellar zero waste practices
    At their Annual Recognition Event hosted in late June, the Atlanta Better Building Challenge (ABBC) celebrated program successes and honored Top Performers and Award Recipients. In addition to the energy and water savings accolades, the Waste Diversion Award was added to the prestigious 2016 program.

    GWCC ABBC Award
    A veteran in zero waste practices, the Georgia World Congress Center Authority (GWCCA) was the first annual Waste Diversion Award recipient. An umbrella state-owned entity, the GWCCA consists of the Georgia World Congress Center - fourth largest convention center in the nation & the world's largest LEED Certified convention center, the Georgia Dome and Centennial Olympic Park. In addition, the GWCCA was awarded the Savannah International Trade & Convention Center management contract in early 2014.

    During fiscal year 2016 ending June 30, the GWCCA segregated 247.5 tons of single-stream recyclables, 260.7 tons of food waste for compost, and 30 tons of corrugated cardboard for respective contracted collection. IMPRESSIVE!

    The GWCCA official zero waste journey began in February 2009 as host for the acclaimed Zero Waste Zones launch. Led by EPA Region 4 Acting Regional Administrator Stan Meiburg, the press conference yielded 60 million media impressions including the CNN City Aims for Zero Waste story that aired prime time in national & international markets.

    SFCI Team during post-game
    food waste audit
    In spring 2012, the Georgia Dome joined the Atlanta Airport and Simon Mall's Concord Mills in Charlotte as prominent Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) Pilots. As the SCFI-Event Venue Pilot, the Georgia Dome was the Lead Pioneer in the Elemental Impact (Ei) Source-Separated Material Recycling Template Pilot.

    The GWCCA hosted the 2013 NCAA® Men’s Final Four®, the second most popular sporting event across the globe. One of the Atlanta Local Organizing Committee stated goals was to make the 2013 Final Four the "greenest games ever." Under GWCCA Director of Sustainability Tim Trefzer's leadereship, the 2013 Final Four lived up to their proclamation and set the stage for future Final Four sustainability requirements. 

    SFCI Co-Chair Doug Kummenann &
    Tim at the education session
    The ZWA Blog article, Final Four green footprints continue after the games, details the impressive recycling and other sustainable stats. In addition, the formal 2013 Final Four Sustainability Report is available for download on the Ei Reference Materials & Tools page.

    At Tim's request, the Ei SMAT - Sustainable Materials ACTION Team - presented a two-hour Compostable Food & Beverage Packaging Education Session for Levy Restaurants in April 2015. In addition to providing GWCCA foodservice, Levy Restaurants operates foodservice at Phillips Arena and the Mercedes-Benz Stadium, future home of the Atlanta Falcons. The ZWA Blog article, Compostable F&B Packaging: integral to zero waste programs and soil rebuilding, is an overview of the powerful session.

    Although it specified prior year activity, the GWCCA's seasoned materials management platform was at the core of the prestigious ABBC Waste Diversion Award. 

    GWCCA Team with Award Presenters
    photo courtesy of ABBC
    The Georgia Dome is one season away from decommission; the GWCCA goal is to recover, reuse and | or recycle at least 90% of the facility. With their solid sustainability culture, the GWCCA is staged to set new standards in venue deconstruction.

    Southeast Green's Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge Recognizes the Year’s Top Performers post is an excellent recap of the ABBC Awards Event, including the below quote from Stephanie Stuckey Benfield, Director, City of Atlanta Mayor’s Office of Sustainability:
    Our Atlanta Better Buildings Challenge participants have truly stepped up and gone beyond the whole nine yards in gaining forward progress toward our goals in energy and water conservation. Because of them, Atlanta has become the efficiency leader that our nation looks to as the example to follow. Mayor Kasim Reed and I are proud of all the voluntary work done by our participants, especially our top performers. Through cutting waste, we are not only able to save energy, water and money, but we’re able to make our hometown more resilient, sustainable and with a higher quality of life for all.”

    Atlanta is a rock star in many sustainability arenas. It is important organizations like the ABBC recognize the industry heroes as well as broadcast Atlanta's impressive sustainability successes to the nation and beyond.

    Congratulations to the GWCCA and other ABBC Top Performers!
  10. Zero Waste CULTURE, a necessary ingredient for long-term ZW program success
    CULTUREa collective programming of the mind that distinguishes the members of one group or category of people from another.

    The above is one of several culture definitions provided on the Texas A&M University website. Within the above definition, corporate and community cultures distinguish themselves in many arenas and behavioral patterns. 

    Culture often dictates behavior, either via protocol, rules | regulations, or simply "the way things are done" mentality. In addition, culture drives values, belief systems, and motivation factors. For zero waste program long-term success it is imperative to cultivate a culture where sustainability is a grounding force.

    Plastic film is a valuable material
    when baled for recycling
    Although it may originate within citizen | employee actions and | or demands, corporate and community leadership must align with a sustainability-oriented culture; leadership support is necessary to build infrastructure and economic incentives. Zero waste programs often require corporate | community investment in equipment, labor, and adequate space allocation. Leadership is responsible for investment decisions.

    In the November 2015 WasteDIVE article Zero waste: An attainable goal? Q&A with Elemental Impact (Ei) Founder Holly Elmore culture emerged as the single most important factor in zero waste success. In the article, Holly emphasized corporate and consumer citizens must view discarded items as material with value versus trash. Holly states:
    "As long as we view it as trash it will end up in the landfill. We must recognize it as valuable material."
    Culture often dictates whether discarded items are treated as trash or valuable material.

    In the ZWA Blog article, Keys to Zero Waste Success, culture is infiltrated throughout the recommended steps for implementing a zero waste plan. Under the Take baby steps, lots & lots of baby steps section, the first two steps relate to building corporate culture:
    1. Secure top management buy-in - best to also secure Board of Directors support who are responsible to the organization's shareholders.
    2. Identify a "Green Team" from across departments led by a passionate individual in a decision making capacity; for non-management team members, ensure zero waste support is written into job review criteria so they are recognized, versus penalized, for their participation.
    The article lists the following culture-oriented cornerstones in many successful programs:
    EFP Bulletin Board in
    common area 
    • Top management participates in a waste audit and sees firsthand valuable resources the company pays to landfill; often results in new practices eliminating purchases (switch from disposable to reusable coffee cups) and reducing use (install paper product dispensers); an effective tool to keep top management focused on zero waste success.
    • Formal employee engagement program seeking suggestions for improved zero waste practices; often production line employees experience wasteful practices not seen by management.
    • Zero waste evolves into the corporate culture; zero waste culture is incorporated within the new hire interview and training process; signage is placed throughout the facility to emphasize the importance in daily activities.
    • Fun, lighthearted communication for a serious message.
    • Continuing employee education re: at work and personal zero waste practices along with opportunity for employee feedback.
    At the inaugural 2012 National Zero Waste Business Conference (NZWBC), Eiko Risch of Ricoh Electronics gave an amazing overview of Ricoh's zero waste and sustainability accomplishments. Once top management buy-in was secured, Eiko developed programs requiring 100% employee participation, including training, fun contests and monetary incentives. Ricoh's zero waste culture is incorporated into the standard hiring process from interviews to the welcome process to job training.

    Zero Waste Culture is strong @ EFP
    Thanks to Earth Friendly Products (EFP) Vice-President of Sustainability and Education Nadereh Afsharmanesh, zero waste action is successfully interwoven within the EFP corporate culture. Naderah hosts regular employee sustainability training sessions where employees are encouraged to share their ideas for edging closer to true zero waste. Thus, the facility bathrooms have small recycling containers placed next to the sink for the toilet paper cores.

    ... and EFP's five U.S. plants are Platinum USZWBC Zero Waste Facility Certified!

    At the Fifth Annual NZWBC hosted this June in Austin, the importance of corporate & community culture emerged as one of two common themes within the program presentations. Food waste was the other common priority among conference speakers.

    During her Food - Love it ... But Don't Waste It! plenary panel presentation, Ted's Montana Grill (TMG) Purchasing & Sustainability Manager Paula Owens included a video dedicated to the TMG sustainability commitment. In the video, TMG Co-Founders Ted Turner and George McKerrow share their common vision for integrating sustainability within standard operating practices and core values. Leading by example, TMG serves as a restaurant industry forerunner for sustainable best operating practices.

    The ZWA Blog article, A "Tuned In" Industry Catches a Vibrant Zero Waste Beat, features the stellar 2016 NZWBC plenary program, including Paula's impressive presentation.

    In the pre-NZWBC Zero Waste 101 Workshop, Frontline Industrial Consulting President KB Kleckner presented on the importance of Getting Leadership on Board. At the core of KB's message is the imperative role culture plays in zero waste success. KB uses a bridge visual to map the path from strategy to execution:

    Bridging Strategy and Frontline Execution ... by structuring and coaching:

    • LEADER DEVELOPMENT: The person at the top.
    • PERSONAL CONNECTION: Engagement on a uniquely personal level.
    • CULTURE: Building beliefs, values, and relationships that guide judgment, decisions, and actions.
    KB presenting @ the NZWBC
    photo courtesy Scott Lutocka
    KB shares his experience crafting strong zero waste programs at Mohawk Industries manufacturing plants during his tenure as Vice President of Manufacturing and Operations of the Home Division. In KB's own words:
    "One company does not have the resources to save the world with their Sustainability efforts. But, each company must do their part!  It starts with leadership, culture, and a personal connection with each of the stakeholders, that quickly spill over into business benefits." 
    As the opening keynote speaker at the October 2015 SPC Advance hosted in Charlotte, Domtar President & CEO John Williams gave solid examples for crafting a corporate sustainability platform. For success, top management, Board of Director members and shareholders must commit to a long-term program that may include short-run sacrifices. 

    It is important to quantify success and demand the supply chain complements the sustainability platform. John recommends using a corporate scorecard to clearly communicate expectations and audit results to ensure authenticity. The ZWA Blog article, Sustainability: an industry defining itself, is an overview of the SPC Advance conference, featuring John's empowering plenary presentation.

    Successful zero waste programs make good long-term business sense for the organization, the community and the environment. Corporate | community leadership supports the sustainability culture necessary for program longevity and evolution.

    Cultivating zero waste culture within a corporate or community is a necessary ingredient for crafting a sustainable program.

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