An Integrated Approach to Sustainability


To bring zero waste initiatives to food courts and develop industry sustainable best practices for back-of-the-house and front-of-the-house operations


Georgia World Congress Center Director of Sustainability Tim Trefzer

With the National Restaurant Association purchase of the Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) in late 2012, the SFCI is Ei's central Recycling Refinement focus. Under the ZWZ, best operating practices were established for back-of-the-house food waste generated in commercial kitchens. The SFCI addresses front-of-the-house food waste, recycling, and trash collection where the consumer source-separates material.

In addition to the Recycling Refinement focus, the SFCI Pilots are active in the Water Use | Toxicity (Airborne Kitchen Grease & Cooling Tower Blowdown) and Product Stewardship (PetroWax-Free Boxes) Initiatives.


In March 2012, Ei Founder Holly Elmore presented on the SFCI at a Global Green’s Coalition for Resource Recovery conference in New Orleans. The video from the conference provides an excellent SFCI overview.

The following zero waste challenges are inherent within food courts:

  • Common property waste and recycling contracts for the entire property
  • Landlord | tenant relationships with contractual legal restrictions and obligations
  • Franchisee | franchisor relationships with contractual legal restrictions and obligations
  • Consumer disposition and separation of food waste, recycling and trash
  • Third party products brought into the food court not purchased from the Quick Service Restaurants (QSR) or retail outlets
  • Food may be prepared in a commissary or off-site kitchen and transported to the QSR with minimal on-site preparation
  • Multiple packaging items used in the front and back-of-house by QSR, the landlord, and | or property manager
  • Contracted custodial services by the landlord or property manager

Food courts fall into the following six main categories, each with unique circumstances and challenges:

  • Airports
  • Colleges | Universities
  • Event Venues
  • Government Centers
  • Office Centers
  • Shopping Malls
  • Annual Events

To address the unique challenges pilots are planned in each category. The following pilots are launched:

The stated prime SFCI Pilot focus is post-consumer food waste collection for compost or a permitted destination other than landfill. The secondary focus is on-site material source-separation for recycling, which involves beyond the food court to the entire Pilot facility. The ZWA Blog article, SFCI targets post-consumer food waste, announces the SFCI food waste focus along with respective Pilot updates.

The pilots are supported by a powerful SFCI Team consisting of national non-profits, trade associations, government and industry experts from the private sector. Local organizations join the specific pilot team to share expertise unique to the area and facility. The SFCI Team consists of the following:

Trade Associations | Non-Profits:

Industry Experts: