SFCI Atlanta Airport Pilot

Sustainable Food Court Initiative


An Integrated Approach to Sustainability

In 2011, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport accepted the invitation to serve as the Sustainable Food Court Initiative (SFCI) Airport Pilot. It is an honor for the busiest airport in the world to serve as the SFCI’s first pilot.

With impeccable timing, the Atlanta Airport was in the midst of the Request for Proposals for the entire airport foodservice operations. Working closely with the Department of Aviation, the SFCI Team provided the necessary support for the groundbreaking compostable packaging provision in the ten-year airport-concessionaire contracts. The ZWA Blog post, Atlanta Airport Makes a Bold Sustainable Statement, announces the contract provision.

The following local government and non-profits joined the national SFCI Team for the SFCI – Atlanta Airport Team:

Ei Industry Pioneer HMSHost, foodservice operator for the International Terminal & beyond, joins the team as a valuable Industry Pioneer implementing sustainable best operating practices.

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

  • Security – airports operate within strict security regulations resulting in accessibility restrictions.
  • Space – many airport loading areas are on the tarmac where valuable space is leased to the airlines and not available for recycling containers. In addition, there is often limited back-of-the-house space to separate recyclable material.
  • Timing – due to tarmac loading areas, deliveries and collections are often restricted to late night | early morning hours.
  • Insurance requirements – often $10 million + insurance coverage is required for delivery or collection companies.
  • Numerous concessionaire contracts – many airports divide foodservice contracts among several to numerous vendors. The prime concessionaires often subcontract with local minority-owned businesses.
  • Transient consumer – by its nature, the airport food-court consumer varies daily with only a portion returning on a regular basis.


Committed to action, the SFCI – Atlanta Airport Team accomplished the following projects:


In 2012 HMSHost began recycling the approximately 2600 milk jugs per week used at their Atlanta Airport Starbucks locations. The ZWA Blog post, Milk Jugs Recycled @ Atlanta Airport, is an overview of the system. The Ei FB album, 12-05-11 SFCI ATL Airport Milk Jug Recycling , gives a pictorial play by play of the collection, compacting, and baling process.


During late 2011, HMSHost contracted with a local composter to collect BOH food waste for a two-month test run on the Concourse T. The test-run purpose was to understand logistical challenges inherent within airport operations and regulations prior to implementing a larger-scale collection program. No unanticipated challenges nor issues were discovered. Due to the closing of the test-run composter, the BOH food waste collection is in a holding pattern until an alternative destination is determined.


Pei Wei, a HMSHost food-court restaurant in the International Terminal, participated in a kitchen-hood-filter-system pilot designed to document the water usage and toxicity reductions with system use. In addition to the environmental impact, the pilot quantifies the economic benefits. The pilot is complete with the report downloadable on the AKG Stage 1 page.

Due to the pilot success, the Atlanta Airport secured approval for a campus-wide installation of the Grease Lock Filter system. The airport anticipates saving an estimated 1.1 million gallons of water and each concessionaire saving approximately $7300 per unit due to reduced kitchen exhaust system cleanings.

At the 2015 Annual Ei Partner Meeting the Ei AKG Initiative was announced in a presentation by Ei Industry Expert Partner Grease Lock Filters. The ZWA Blog article, Ei Airborne Kitchen Grease Initiative , announces the initiative; to download the PPT presentation visit the Annual Ei Partner Meeting page.


Via an Ei introduction, Ei Partners Renaissance Technology | Filters Plus completed an Atlanta Airport RFP (request for proposal) for toxic chemical-free cooling-tower maintenance; the RFP process served as the formal WCTI technology assessment process for the 2018 FY Budget, beginning July 1, 2017. If installed, the Atlanta Airport is staged to save an estimated 7 – 10 million gallons of water annually. The intent was for the Atlanta Airport to serve as a Lead Pioneer in the Ei Cooling Tower Blowdown Initiative along with formal City of Atlanta Office of Sustainability support.

In July 2018, Ei learned the WCTI technology was the RFP recommended system. Evaluations are underway by the contracted engineering consulting firm.


The Atlanta Airport has a strong overall sustainability commitment and received the following awards:

  • 2011 Going Green Airport Award< – the prestigious award recognizes the value of the project, as well as outstanding leadership in pursuit of sustainability within the aviation industry. For details on the SFCI Atlanta Airport Team Award, visit the ZWA Blog post, Atlanta Airport SFCI Pilot Wins National Award.
  • Atlanta Business Chronicle’s ENPACT Award at the 2012 Environmental Awards – the Atlanta Airport received the impressive award for their overall sustainability efforts with specific mention of the SFCI Pilot during the award acceptance. The ZWA Blog, Atlanta Airport Wins ENPACT Award, gives additional details.
  • Atlanta Business Chronicles 2013 Emerging Leader Award – Michael Cheyne, Atlanta Airport director of asset management & sustainability, received the prestigious award for his career-long sustainability commitment. Michael was the lead SFCI – Atlanta Airport team member.

Ei Online Magazines