Our Coalition for Resource Recovery (CoRR) team hosted a "Green Growth and Resource Recovery Conference" in New Orleans last week at the Bioinnovation Center. The conference focused on building a more sustainable New Orleans through improved recycling and waste management systems that stimulate economic growth. More than 50 attendees from government, business, and the nonprofit sector who work with waste collection, economic development, composting, food service and hospitality, city planning, architecture, communications, environmental affairs, and venture capitalism joined us for the event -- all integral players with the power to grow the green economy in New Orleans.
Speakers included the Honorable Cedric Glover, Mayor of Shreveport, LA, and representatives from the New Orleans Department of Sanitation, New Orleans Regional Planning Commission, National and Louisiana Restaurant Associations, Louisiana Department of Environmental Quality, Container Recycling Institute, BASF, Verallia, Morial Convention Center, Mississippi River Pulp, Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group, Reflective Recycling, RecycleBank, NOLA Brewing Company, Tales of the Cocktail, Wastequip, W2E Organic Power, Progressive Waste Services/IESI, and Elemental Impact.
Below, some highlights from the conference presentations.
New Orleans Landscape
The conference kicked off with an overview of the current New Orleans waste and recycling landscape, provided by the New Orleans Department of Sanitation and the New Orleans Regional Planning Commission. With a booming restaurant scene and tourism comes a demand for recycling solutions. The benefits to the local economy were noted by the Louisiana Restaurant Association, Morial Convention Center, and National Restaurant Association, and we learned that the economic impact of a large convention to New Orleans can be well over $40 million. Securing contracts of conventions seeking facilities with green operations -- including recycling -- is a big opportunity for New Orleans.
New Orleans is home to a number of huge and high-profile events, including the SuperBowl, GreenBuild, Final Four, Jazz Fest, and Mardi Gras -- and events such as these can be used to pilot innovative resource recovery solutions. On this topic, the Mariners zero-waste stadium was discussed, as well as opportunities to apply lessons learned with other sports stadiums; the use of mobile reverse vending units that provide rewards; best practices in bin design and labeling to support customer sorting; and local outlets for post-consumer paper and plastics recycling. The opportunity to test more recyclable materials at events also was addressed, with local plastics processors eager to learn what type of plastic is used to make all of those Mardi Gras beads.
Restaurant Waste Management
Louisiana Restaurant Association members, including the Ralph Brennan Restaurant Group and Tales of Cocktail, provided greater insight on their interest in composting, solutions for glass recycling, and turning grease to biodiesel. They noted specific needs from a restaurant operator’s perspective to ensure a fit with existing operations, as well as the need for a one-stop shop to provide information on how to green operations.
Annie White from Global Green presented on the results of Global Green's paper packaging recycling work with Starbucks and Pret A Manger in New York City and challenged local restaurants in New Orleans to beat the New York City contingent in implementing an ongoing recycling program for these materials.
RecycleBank, recently named to Fast Company's list of most innovative companies, presented on how rewards programs significantly increase the tons of recyclables collected.
The Container Recycling Institute and others noted that bottle deposits and laws requiring recycling increase percent recovery of these specific materials. And, keeping glass separate from other recyclables increases the value of post-consumer materials, both of the glass and the paper.
The Mayor of Shreveport shared his lessons learned on implementing a recycling program, including the importance of public outreach and education. (Here's a PSA that supported Shreveport's successful program implementation.)
Organics Recovery & Waste Management
Those working on organics recovery, including W2E Power and WasteQuip, discussed the palette of material handling and ultimate recovery solutions available for both residential and commercial use as well as the possibilities in New Orleans.
The meeting concluded with a presentation by Geoff Rathbone, Progressive, who previously worked with the City of Toronto on its waste management program. Through an integrated approach, they worked towards a 70% diversion goal (currently at ~65%), which included the launch of a residential organics green bin program that sent the organic waste to an anaerobic digester that turns the methane into natural gas to fuel collection vehicles. Another key part of the program was a volume-based payment mechanism for residences to pay for trash, which helps to cut down on trash generation.
Presenters pointed to recycling as a great way to create green jobs and addressed the need to keep recyclables generated in New Orleans in the region around Louisiana.
New Orleans has a variety of options to develop progressive recycling programs, increase recycling participation and infrastructure -- thereby spurring green tourism and jobs. Global Green looks forward to working in partnership with local organizations and city agencies to help catalyze this change. We'll keep you posted on our efforts to facilitate local siting of recycling and organics recovery infrastructure and our work with the commercial and residential sectors to develop innovative recycling and composting programs.
Added details about our event and our generous sponsors: Prior to the day-long conference, there was an evening reception hosted and sponsored by the Louisiana Restaurant Association, with local cuisine and libations provided by New Orleans establishments that included Dickie Brennan Steak House, Jazzmen Rice & Tulane University, Red Fish Grill, The Safety Orange, Cure NOLA, NOLA Brewing Company, Republic National Distributing Company, and Tales of the Cocktail. Composting services were provided by NOLA Roots.