Atlanta now features the Southeast’s first and one of the nation’s first Zero Waste Zones as part of an effort to reduce the environmental impact of waste. Atlanta Recycles along with the Green Foodservice Alliance and the Environmental Protection Agency are working together to start the program in downtown Atlanta with plans to implement it in other Atlanta areas in the near future. With 10 participants so far including the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, the Georgia World Congress Center, and the Georgia Dome, this program will divert about 34 tons of organic materials from landfills and more than 20 tons of compost will be created.
According to the Georgia Environmental Protection Division, we as a state dispose of more than 17 million tons of waste in municipal solid waste landfills per year. According to the EPA, 82% of materials disposed of in landfills are recyclable materials like paper, plastics and organic products. The Zero Waste Zone will serve as a model of how businesses and homeowners should deal with their waste instead of assuming that once placed in the trashcan, it will disappear.
Through this program, participants will not only recycle common goods like plastic, glass and paper, but also spent grease for biofuel and food residuals for donation or compost. Spent grease from frying is captured in bins and suction-collected. Refuel Biodiesel then converts these fryer oils into biodiesel fuel and returned to the company for them to use for their own transportation services. Dishes are scraped clean into compost containers which are then collected by Greenco Environmental and blended with wood and yard residuals from tree companies, landscapers and municipalities creating high-quality organic compost for landscapers, farmers and gardeners to use as fertilizer. Adding compost to soil increases its ability to hold water (thus helping to conserve H2o) and helps replenish nutrients, making plants more resistant to pests, drought and disease and creating healthier, more nutritious foods.
American society is known for its tendency to over-consume, which creates massive amounts of waste. It is good to know that these businesses in Atlanta are starting to realize that putting something in the trash does not get rid of it, and hopefully other businesses and households in Atlanta and the rest of the U.S. will follow their lead and reuse and recycle everything possible.