Moving beyond landfill diversion
Ei was formed in 2010 as the home for the Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ), the nation's forerunner in the collection of commercial food waste for compost. Inaugural ZWZ years were dedicated to raising awareness of food waste compost within the foodservice industry and establishing new sustainable standard operating practices. Founding ZWZ Participants perfected back-of-the-house food waste collection practices and shared their successes with industry colleagues.
The National Resources Defense Council's 2012 Wasted: How America is Losing Up to 40 Percent of Its Food from Farm to Fork to Landfill issue paper publication alerted mainstream media to the food waste crisis. Numerous powerful organizations formed within the foodservice and retail industries to directly address the crisis and affect change.
Original Recycling Refinement page:
Ei is committed to creating operating practices where integrity is maintained throughout the entire value chain, including material producers, users and destinations at disposal time. Diverting valuable material from landfills and back into the production process is a core of Ei’s foundation and expertise.
As the Zero Waste Zones (ZWZ) steward, Ei was a “zero waste cheerleader” educating the commercial consumer on the important role recycling plays in best business practices. Beyond environmental concerns, recycling programs often are profit centers, especially for larger generators, improve employee morale and are expected by customers.
When the National Restaurant Association purchased the ZWZ in 2012, Ei evolved from a cheerleader to working with zero waste veterans on refining recycling practices. The ZWA Blog post, National Restaurant Association Acquires the Zero Waste Zones, announces the program purchase.
In the early years, zero waste measurement was in diversion rates from the landfill without consideration of the final destination. Single-stream recycling, often the only recycling option available, results in material contamination and a high percentage of recyclable items landfill destined. Note effective single-stream MRF – material recovery facilities – separation is limited by the contamination within the delivered material.
Back-of-the-house (pre-consumer) food waste industry practices were perfected by early zero waste pioneers. Front-of-the-house (post-consumer) food waste remains a recycling frontier for two main reasons: 1> necessary shift in consumer-facing packaging to create clean food waste streams and 2> consumer responsibility for food waste disposal.
The Recycling Refinement focus areas are:
- Post-Consumer Food Waste - the Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) announced its post-consumer food waste focus with the ZWA Blog article SFCI targets post-consumer food waste.
- Source-Separated Material Recycling (S-SMR) - the ZWA Blog article, Sustainability in ACTON at Georgia Dome , documents initial action steps in the city-wide source-separated material recycling template. Integral to S-SMR is employing a Total Materials Management Approach when crafting comprehensive recycling programs.
In 2015 SMAT - Sustainable Materials ACTION Team, an Ei task force - formed to support Recycling Refinement initiatives. SMAT members include Ei Industry Experts as well as local and federal government associates.
Intertwined within Recycling Refinement is Recycling Integrity - maintaining maximum material value with minimum energy expended. With an emphasis on source-separation at the generation site, Recycling Integrity demands organizations understand the final destination, including the journey along the way, of by-products and material generated during operations.