Georgia: Georgia World Congress Center

Location(s): 
Atlanta, GA
Summary: 

The Georgia World Congress Center is the fourth largest convention center in the USA. They are increasingly diverting compostables and educating guests how to properly identify and sort materials.

Products and Brands Composted: 

The Georgia World Congress uses compostable products from:

  • Greenware
  • Ecotainer
  • Dispozo

Collection System:
Compostables are collected in 35 gallon toters kept in the kitchen. In the employee cafeteria, they have one staff member specifically for sorting materials going to the various waste streams.

Compost bins are only made available in events if the client requests it, which happens approximately 5 times a year. They keep the compost bin alongside the landfill and recycling bins. They don’t bring out the compost bins at every event because of the high levels of contamination. To curb this, they have made clear signage and table tents to remind guests about what to compost. These measures have been quite effective in educating patrons. In the Georgia Dome, composting is available all year round in the party suites and is complemented with food waste signage. They have also been collecting in back-of-house since before 2010.

Compostables are collected daily or every other day depending on how busy they are. From October 2011 to October 2012, over 313 tons of compost was collected at the GWCC and 40 tons at the Georgia Dome.

Compost Process: 

Hauler: Closed Loop Organics
Compost facility: Closed Loop Organics (Gainesville, GA)

Size of Operation: 

The Georgia World Congress Center or GWCC is the fourth-largest convention center in the United States and hosts more than a million visitors each year. The GWCC is on a campus that is shared with the Georgia Dome (Atlanta Falcons stadium) and Centennial Olympic Park, and oversees the sustainability of all three.

Dollars and Sense:
Georgia Dome: 85% of all disposable ware is compostable
GWCC: everything is compostable except for straws and condiment cups
The cost of compostables is greater than their traditional counterparts, but they maintain a commitment to sustainability. The cost for hauling to landfill and composting offset each other.

The GWCC uses reusable china and hard plastic cups to encourage employees to eat in the employee cafeteria, but many eat on-the-go. They also encourage using reusables at convenu tion center events.

Challenges: 

Training back-of-house staff to source separate for compostable is challenging because much of the staff had never had experience of what was compostable or why it is important to separate. The chefs were adamant and it was seamlessly integrated into the process.

Need to have as much signage as possible since it’s your best bet for reminding people and getting the message across to separate for composting. Include signage everywhere; at the bins, dining table tops, loading dock area, scraping area, etc.

Educate why you’re making the change and have a good message to repeat. Get buy-in from upper management by making the business or economic case that appeals to them. Competition among convention centers has helped, especially since events are increasingly asking for front of house composting which shows that it isn’t just a fad.

Contact: 

Tim Trefzer
Sustainability Coordinator
Georgia World Congress Center Authority
285 Andrew Young International Blvd. NW
Atlanta, GA 30313
(404) 223-4265
ttrefzer@gwcc.com