When the Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) 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.

With Ei’s role complete, the National Restaurant Association (NRA) purchased the ZWZ in late 2012 to augment its ConServe Program. The ZWA Blog article, National Restaurant Association Purchases Zero Waste Zones, announces the acquisition.

As ZWZ Participants, each of the Sustainable Food Court Initiative Pilots have strong pre-consumer food waste collection commitments and goals in-place for post-consumer food waste.

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

The ZWA Blog article, SFCI targets post-consumer food waste, announces the focus along with substantiating the existing food waste foundation

Two challenges are prominent in post-consumer food waste programs: 1> food & beverage packaging and 2> consumer responsibility for food waste disposition.

The SMAT – Sustainable Materials ACTION Team, an Ei task force - provides SFCI support for food & beverage packaging. At the present juncture, SMAT recommends all food packaging is certified compostable to avoid contamination in the food waste stream. Current challenges include:

  • Condiment packets, which may be replaced with pump stations & compostable portion containers
  • Snack packaging, such as potato chips, pretzels etc.; pilots are in consideration to test compostable packaging in a controlled environment.
  • Items pre-packaged at a food processing facility such as yogurt.
  • Liners used in packaging for on-site prepared food, which may be replaced with compostable alternatives.
  • Film packaging used for items prepared on-site (e.g. sandwiches), which may be replaced with compostable film products.
  • Commercial scale food service bags for on-site prepared food, which may be replaced with compostable alternatives.

For pre-packaged beverages, such as beer, soft drinks, juices and bottled water, SMAT recommends purchases are made in recyclable plastic (generally PET) or aluminum. The consumer is educated to recycle bottles; aluminum | PET co-mingle with little to no contamination.

For beverages served on-site, SMAT recommends compostable cups are used. The common exception is souvenir cups, especially at sporting events.

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.

The following is a quick recap of the post-consumer food waste program status at each of the SFCI Pilots:

SFCI – Atlanta Airport:

The Atlanta Airport 2011 concessionaire contract requires food vendors to use compostable foodservice packaging. Beginning in 2013, the Airport held a series of SFCI Vendor Fairs to educate concessionaires on how to meet the contract provision. Once the Airport secures a state-permitted food waste destination, preferably on-site, concessionaires will be required to comply with the contract provision.

SMAT is available to support the Atlanta Airport concessionaires with the compostable foodservice packaging requirements. For additional information on accomplishments to date, refer to the SFCI – Atlanta Airport page.

SFCI – Concord Mills:

Concord Mills intends to implement a food court post-consumer food waste collection program. Since food court restaurants will not shift to compostable packaging, the intent is for a duel stream collection system: 1> food waste & napkins and 2> trash. Note most beverages are served fountain-style in cups with minimal PET and aluminum generated, unless brought to the food court by the consumer.

For additional information on accomplishments to date, refer to the SFCI – Concord Mills page.

SFCI – Georgia Dome:

The Georgia Dome included post-consumer food waste collection as one of three stated goals for the 2014 Atlanta Falcons Seasons. For the first stage, the post-consumer food waste collection focus was the Club Level. Establishing baselines | fact finding for the business model development were completed during the 2014 season. During the 2015 season, a Club Level post-consumer food waste collection pilot was implemented. With only one remaining Falcons season before the Georgia Dome implosion, the post-consumer food waste initiatives shifted focus to the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC).

In early 2015 GWCC Director of Sustainability Tim Trefzer requested SMAT to present a comprehensive Compostable F&B Packaging Education Session to Levy Restaurants' downtown campus. Foodservice operations are contracted with Levy at the GWCC, Georgia Dome, Centennial Olympic Park, Phillips Arena and the Mercedes-Benz Falcons Stadium. The ZWA Blog article. Compostable F&B Packaging: integral to zero waste programs and soil rebuilding, is an overview of the session and the important role packaging plays in zero waste programs.

For additional information on accomplishments to date, refer to the SFCI – Georgia Dome page.

Zero Food Waste Journeys:

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. As food was prepared off-site by participating foodservice operators, the journey was focused on post-consumer food waste generated at the event. The ZWA Blog article, Afternoon in the Country embarks on zero food waste journey, announces the AITC zero food waste journey.

In addition, AITC Event Producer ideaLand secured a zero food waste commitment for 2015 RayDay hosted at Serenbe. SMAT members worked closely with the event management to craft zero food waste practices at the prominent events.

For pre-event planning leading up to AITC, annual event challenges and Ei Team members, visit the Zero Food Waste Journeys page. The ZWA Blog article, Zero Food Waste Journeys: Successes, Challenges & Lessons Learned, recounts the AITC | RayDay journey