May 17, 2010 | General

Greening The Biocycle Conference

BioCycle Conference collection stations for recycling, composting and refuseBioCycle May 2010, Vol. 51, No. 5, p. 18
This year’s BioCycle West Coast Conference achieved a 75 percent diversion rate.
Janice Sitton

FOR the 25th Annual BioCycle West Coast Conference held in San Diego, California, BioCycle implemented a plan to green the conference. A Green Team was formed to reduce waste and collect separate material streams for composting and recycling. Representatives from BioCycle, the Town & Country Resort (where the Conference was held), the City of San Diego, Good Green Graces and Novamont developed a plan of action based on several conference calls two months in advance of the event.
The conference sessions and trade show took place over two days, April 13 and 14. The Green Team decided to set up recycling collection stations in key event areas. There were a total of eight stations, seven in attendee areas and one in the kitchen coffee prep area. Each station had separate containers for recycling, composting and trash, and signage was provided by Good Green Graces to aid attendees and hotel staff in the correct placement of materials in one of the three containers.
Although the Town & Country Resort had not done any composting collection to date, the staff was more than willing to accommodate our program needs. They provided food and condiments in bulk to reduce packaging waste, rearranged and removed stand-alone trash cans as requested, and committed dedicated staff to ensure the program’s success. Good Green Graces provided training for the staff and worked closely with them throughout the Conference to maximize collection efforts.
Other conference greening initiatives included electronic signage (instead of nonrecyclable banners); use of hotel china/silverware with the option for compostable cups and spoons; selection of menu items that did not require serviceware; and an all compostable lunch for the Conference tour, including Ecovio bags donated by BASF, sandwiches wrapped in paper, bulk cookies and fruit, and compostable SunChips snack bags donated by Frito-Lay.

One of the main challenges was to make sure the compostable stream collected was taken to a special 4-cubic yard debris bin provided by Waste Management for storage. After the first green bag got lost (i.e., taken to the trash compactor), one of the hotel collection supervisors took extra care to ensure compostables got to the right container from that point forward. Novamont provided green, compostable bags to help staff easily identify the composting fraction collected, and also provided BPI certified compostable cups and tasting spoons to reduce contamination.
A way was needed to measure the amount of recycling and trash generated at the BioCycle event, since these materials would be taken to venue compactors. Colored ribbons (blue for recycling, pink for trash) were provided so the hotel janitorial staff could “bag and tag” the BioCycle event bags. Ribbons were then tallied at the end of each day. The volume of the bags was monitored throughout the event, so an estimated number of full bags could be generated from the total bags pulled.
Table 1 shows the number of bags (and ribbons) collected, along with the adjusted number of full bags based on actual volumes observed. It needs to be noted that the numbers in Table 1 do not include materials generated on Monday (April 12), including exhibitor move-in and an evening reception, or the food scraps generated in the kitchen that went to landfill. However, given the large amount of cardboard typically generated during an exhibitor move-in and the type of food served, it is likely that the diversion rate would stay the same for the overall event even if these volumes were factored in.
Compost only bin
On the morning of April 15, the dedicated 4-yard container with the food scraps was pulled and taken to the City of San Diego’s Greenery, a large-scale windrow composting operation, for processing. Although the compostable materials were collected in green compostable bags, the Greenery does not accept the bags for composting. The materials collected also needed to be checked for contamination, so a few members from the Green Team and a volunteer headed over to the Greenery early on April 15 – the day of the Conference tour of the Greenery – to remove the bags and sort through the materials collected.
During sorting, we encountered some items that were obviously contaminants and had to be removed. These included coffee cup lids, straws, a few Styrofoam containers, and about 10 aluminum cans. In addition, we also found an attendee name badge and a plastic envelope containing a trade show exhibitor’s bill of lading. We won’t divulge the identity, but if we find the same attendee or company’s information in the compost stream next year, all bets are off!
contaminant materials included cup lids, straws and styrofoam
We also encountered at least four different types of paper cups during our sort, and had some interesting discussions about which paper cups we should and should not compost. One cup had a waxy lining, two cups had a petroleum-based liner, and one had a certified compostable liner. After numerous discussions with the city staff at the Greenery, it was finally decided that only the cups provided by Novamont, with the certified compostable liner, would be accepted for composting.
We created two piles: one with materials that could be composted at the Greenery, and one with residuals that could not be composted there. BioCycle tour attendees got to see first-hand how they did getting their materials in the right bag, and some of the challenges that result from collecting postconsumer compostable materials. They also could see the results of the city of San Diego’s compostable product trials, which will be featured in a summer issue of BioCycle.
Thanks to all the attendees who paid attention to what goes where, the level of contamination wasn’t bad at all. This was encouraging. Also, a special thanks goes out to all the Green Team members who helped make the program a reality this year. BioCycle completely supported the program, the Town & Country provided the framework and the manpower, the City provided the infrastructure, Novamont provided compostable products, and Good Green Graces provided the expertise to pull it all together.

Janice Sitton is owner of Good Green Graces. For more information, please contact her at or 415-577-5237. BioCycle extends its sincere thanks to all the members of the Green Team.

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