An Integrated Approach to Regeneration

In late summer 2012, Concord Mills – a Simon mall in Charlotte, NC - accepted the invitation to serve as the SFCI Shopping Mall Pilot. With nearly 400 shopping centers nationwide, Simon Property Group is the nation’s largest mall owner and commercial property owner. The ZWA Blog article, Concord Mills – SFCI Shopping Mall Pilot! , announces the pilot.

Working closely with the Simon corporate waste and recycling office since spring 2011, the Concord Mills team was ready for immediate action. The ZWA Blog article, Simon Property Group Embarks on Zero Waste Initiatives, documents the Simon | Ei introduction and strategy meetings while the post, 2011 Planning = 2012 Action , is an overview of the action plan development.

The following local government, non-profits and businesses join the SFCI Concord Mills Team:

Until January 2015 Ei Partner HMSHost operated the Concord Mills food court restaurants and was integral to pilot success.

In addition to the overall food court challenges listed on the SFCI Overview page, shopping malls experience the following unique challenges:

  • Numerous food service operators - most shopping mall food court restaurants are operated by a multitude of franchisees, local restaurateurs and regional | national chains making new operating practices implementation a challenge. Concord Mills was an exception with HMSHost operating the food court in its entirety.
  • Open environment - malls do not restrict the consumer from bringing in items purchased elsewhere. Thus, the consumer may bring “trash” into the food court causing contamination in the material stream.
  • Multiple loading areas - malls use a multiple loading dock system where foodservice operators share waste and recycling areas with retail tenants. Often the food court restaurants may use two different loading areas.
  • Seated or “big box” restaurants – larger malls often lease space to larger restaurants who are responsible for their own waste and recycling services.


Upon announcement, the SFCI Concord Mills Pilot was in immediate action mode thanks to the year plus planning in-place and the excellent relationship with Ei Partners HMSHost and Simon Property Group.

Food waste collection for compost:

Back-of-the-house food waste was collected by Earth Farms for composting at their nearby state-permitted facility. Working as a team, HMSHost, Simon and Earth Farms devised a weekly collection system that worked for all concerned parties. The ZWA Blog post, ACTION: Theme for the SFCI Shopping Mall Pilot , includes an overview of the food waste collection program.

Wasted food donations:

Due to quality control standards and a commitment to customer selection, edible yet not servable food is a by-product of operations. A local ministry collected the donated food weekly for those less fortunate. The ZWA Blog post, Food Waste Donation: Everyone Wins!, is an overview of the Concord Mills' donated food program development.

Charlotte Ei Partner Tours:

In March, 2013 HMSHost and Simon Property Group hosted their fellow partners for two days of education, fun and camaraderie. The IMPACT Blog post, Charlotte Ei Partner Tours, gives a tours overview while the ZWA Blog post, Bring the Possible Out of Impossible, dives into zero waste successes. For pictorial recaps of the powerful two days visit the Ei FB albums: 03-04-13 Charlotte Ei Partner Tours - Day One & 03-05-13 Charlotte Ei Partner Tours - Day Two. To download the tours itinerary, attendees, and partner presentations, visit the Ei Partner Tours page.

Beyond the food court:

With superb synergies, the SFCI Team expanded pilot program beyond the food court.

Plastic film recycling

Around 2010 | 2011 garment manufacturers shifted from bulk to single-item packaging; the result is a tremendous volume of clean, valuable plastic film generated by retail operators. Landfill-destined, plastic film is a contaminant in the majority of single-stream MRF - material recovery facilities - and an expense to mall owners.

In August 2012, Concord Mills began collecting retail tenant plastic film for recycling. Accumulated in an empty storage area, the film is baled using an easily operated Orwak small baler. Sold in the commodities market, the plastic film bale rebates more than cover the baler cost. The Concord Mills program is designed as a template for Simon malls and the industry at large. The ZWA Blog post, ACTION: Theme for the SFCI Shopping Mall Pilot, includes an overview of the plastic film recycling system in-place.

The Plastic Film Recycling page details Ei's leadership role in commercial plastic film recycling.


The following initiatives are in various stages of development:

Post-consumer food waste collection:

The goal is to implement a front-of-the-house food waste collection program in the food court. With no expected packaging shifts, all food & beverage packaging is deemed “trash.” A separate collection bin for clearly marked “food waste & napkins” will be placed next to the trash receptacles.

Back-of-the-house food waste manual:

The SMAT – Sustainable Materials ACTION Team – intends to document back-of-the-house food waste collection best practices in an easy-to-follow manual, complete with visuals. The manual will serve as a valuable industry tool available for download on the Ei site.

Plastic film recycling:

The current plastic film recycling program collects approximately 70% of the film generated at the mall. Due to the mall size, another recycling room is important to easily collect the remaining film. Once space is available mall management will establish the second recycling room, complete with a mini-baler.