Great Forest Clients Top Mayor’s Zero Waste Challenge, Become Role Models For New Organics Rule

Great Forest client The Peninsula New York topped the Mayor’s Zero Waste Challenge in the hotel category. The winning team is shown here with executive chef Samuel Linder holding the certificate.

Earlier this year, the Mayor challenged New York businesses to go zero waste. The results are in.  Great Forest’s NYC clients are among the top performers, with the Peninsula New York leading the way in the “hotel” category.

The challenge attracted over 31 different businesses in more than 39 locations across all five boroughs. Great Forest worked closely with the Mayor’s Zero Waste Challenge team to help clients complete the challenge and emerge as role models.

“The Mayor’s Zero Waste Challenge resulted in the total diversion of 36,910 tons of material from landfill and incineration, which results in an enormous environmental benefit to our city,” said Sarah Currie-Halpern, program Lead for the Mayor’s Zero Waste Challenge.

“Great Forest played an important role in helping participants like the Peninsula New York reach a 66% diversion rate… It’s organizations like these that are helping forge the way to the city’s goal of Zero Waste to landfill by 2030.”

Role Models For New Commercial Organics Rule

Just in time, the Mayor’s Zero Waste Challenge produced some great role models for the city’s new commercial organics rule. Beginning July 19, 2016, certain New York City businesses will be required by law to separate their organic waste for beneficial use (composting, anaerobic digestion or other).

Among those affected are food service establishments in hotels with 150 or more rooms, like the Peninsula New York.

“Food waste is a big contributor to overall waste. According to the USDA, about 31% of  food in the U.S. is never eaten. So addressing food waste is key especially for businesses in the hospitality industry. Donating, composting and processing food waste can make a big impact,” says Maya Shenkman, Great Forest’s Director of Hotel Services.

How The Peninsula Did It

Within just a few short months, the Peninsula was able double their diversion rate. So how did they do it? Here’s a quick case study:

One of the first things the team did was to conduct a waste audit.

“In fact any company interested in pursuing zero waste, or wanting to evaluate their waste programs, should do a waste audit. This provides a detailed account of what is going into your waste and recycling streams and allows you to set benchmarks and goals. With a comprehensive audit, you know where your problems are and how to start fixing them,” says Ross Guberman, CEO of Great Forest.

Next, it was time to formula a plan.

“The Peninsula was already doing a good job recycling, so we assisted with simplifying and fine tuning their existing recycling program. But they did not have a system for dealing with organics, and we knew that was what we should target to expand their efforts,” says Maya.

There are multiple ways to deal with food waste. Businesses have to choose what works best for them, depending on the type of organics they generate, the space they have, their location, and other variables.

For the Peninsula, Great Forest worked with the team to evaluate the multiple new food waste technologies available, and helped them select the system that was best suited to their location and needs.

This led to the installation of an Orca machine, with staff training to ensure correct use of the new food waste disposal technology, which digests food waste on-site, transforming it into safe, clean waste water that goes down the drain.

[Which is right for you? Get the Great Forest Guide To New And Emerging Food Waste Technologies]

To ensure the new program worked properly at the hotel, Great Forest conducted educational training sessions, and even met with management and employee unions involved to make sure everyone was on board with the new system.  Even the best recycling program or technology cannot guarantee success if there is no buy-in and cooperation from staff.

The team also adjusted the hotel’s existing waste and recycling program to accommodate the new food waste technology. They added more bins to collect the organic material, made sure containers were properly lined, and that all bin locations had clear signage and instructions.

With the new system in pace, Great Forest performed regular waste audits to help the hotel track the amount of waste and recycling diverted, providing reports to the Challenge.

“By fine-tuning their existing recycling and waste program and expanding it to include organics, the Peninsula is now ahead of the curve in compliance with New York’s new organics law. And they did it in just a few months,” says Maya.

“And because they are now sending less material to the landfill, their waste removal cost may be renegotiated down. While this potential savings is a plus, what’s more important is that their new recycling and waste program is now more effective, leading to smoother daily operations.”

The Mayor’s Challenge By The Numbers

How did all the participants do overall?

  • 36,910 tons of material were diverted from landfill and incineration
  • 24,517 tons of organic waste were diverted from landfill and incineration and instead composted, anaerobically digested, or otherwise beneficially used by participants
  • 11,833 tons of recyclables were diverted from landfill and incineration and recycled by participants
  • Average diversion rate of all participants is 56.5%
  • 74% of participants reached 50% diversion of total waste from landfill/incineration
  • Participants donated 321 tons of edible food to food donation groups and local charities
  • Participants reported 238 tons of non-food donations such as furniture, textiles and electronics.

In The Mayor’s Words

“Our Zero Waste Challenge and the participants have proven that a collected effort helps reduce unnecessary waste,” New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said in a statement. “This challenge proves that our commitment can be achieved so long as every New Yorker does their part to create a more sustainable city…”

Congratulations to all the participants of the Mayor’s Zero Waste Challenge.

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