An Integrated Approach to Sustainability
In July 2017, the ZWA Blog article, Soil Health: regenerating the foundation of life, announced the Ei Soil Health platform. Within the announcement, Ei evolved from a focus on Recycling Refinement and food waste collection for compost to Soil Health. In alignment with the new Ei focus, Georgia World Congress Center Director of Sustainability Tim Trefzer joined the Ei Leadership Team as the new Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) Chair.
With the National Restaurant Association purchase of the Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) in late 2012, the SFCI emerged as Ei's central Recycling Refinement focus through 2016. Under the ZWZ, best-operating practices were established for back-of-the-house food waste generated in commercial kitchens. The SFCI addressed front-of-the-house food waste, recycling, and trash collection where the consumer source-separated material.
In 2014, Ei announced post-consumer food waste collection for compost or a state-permitted destination other than landfill was the prime SFCI focus. The Sustainable Materials ACTION Team (SMAT) formed to support post-consumer food waste projects, ranging from compostable packaging education, post-game food waste collection, and a post-consumer food waste compost pilot at a state-permitted composting facility. In addition to the SFCI, SMAT supported the EPA Scaling Up Compost in Charlotte, NC Grant.
By 2016 numerous sporting event facilities, venues, outdoor festivals, and other food-related businesses achieved zero waste, including post-consumer food waste. Thus, Ei's post-consumer food waste-related work was complete.
SFCI website page content:
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
Past & Founding Ei Chair Scott Seydel and NatureWorks Global Segment Leader - Foodservice Doug Kunnemann
With the National Restaurant Association purchase of the Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) in late 2012, the SFCI was 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 addressed front-of-the-house food waste, recycling, and trash collection where the consumer source-separated material.
In addition to the Recycling Refinement focus, the SFCI Pilots were 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:
- 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 were launched:
- SFCI Airport Pilot – Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport
- SFCI Event Venue Pilot – Georgia Dome
- SFCI Shopping Mall Pilot – Concord Mills
The stated prime SFCI Pilot focus was 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 involved 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 were supported by a powerful SFCI Team consisting of national non-profits, trade associations, government and industry experts from the private sector. Local organizations joined the specific pilot team to share expertise unique to the area and facility. The SFCI Team consisted of the following:
Trade Associations | Non-Profits:
- Elemental Impact
- Foodservice Packaging Institute
- Global Green USA - Coalition for Resource Recovery
- Green Blue's Sustainable Packaging Coalition
- Green Seal
- Institute for Local Self-Reliance
- National Restaurant Association