Event Food Waste Recovery

Jamie Zawila RRS Consultant

Jamie Zawila
RRS Consultant

Jamie Zawila is an RRS consultant and SWANA Ohio Buckeye Chapter board member operating out of the Dayton/Cincinnati Ohio area. Jamie also served as the co-chair of the Recycling Committee for the 2016 SWANA Wastecon conference held in Indianapolis August 22-25. We talked with Jamie about her experience coordinating the recycling and food waste recovery for the conference.


Has SWANA Wastecon always had a materials recovery program in place for their conferences?

The event has always worked with its venues to recycle materials. Several Wastecon’s have had food recovery programs over the last few years.


How did the program work at the Indiana Convention Center?

We worked hand-in-hand with the Indiana Convention Center as well as three outside organizations: Second Helpings, GreenCycle, and Clear Stream Recycling.

The convention center already had a relationship with Second Helpings to rescue prepared, but not served, food and distribute to social service agencies to feed those in need in the greater Indianapolis area. That still required quite a bit of coordination as the food needs to be properly stored until Second Helpings volunteers can arrive to collect the food.

Front of the house food – food that is prepared and served on the buffet – is no longer rescuable, but is recoverable by GreenCycle to produce organic mulches and composts.

Clear Stream Recycling provided recycling containers so that the event attendees could be a part of the solution.

The convention center used a line of biodegradable disposable service ware products and also made efforts to recycle aluminum cans, plastic bottles, glass, cardboard, pallets and cooking oil.


Was there any risk or liability to SWANA Wastecon or the event venue in relation to donating food?

Thanks to the Federal Bill Emerson Good Samaritan Food Donation Act, the donor and recipient are protected against liability, excepting only gross negligence and/or intentional misconduct. The key is to follow protocols and procedures to ensure safe food handling and storage. One of these procedures we assisted with was storing donations in refrigeration until Second Helpings could arrive.


Was it a success?

While it may seem easy to pick up a phone and say, “I have x pounds of prepared bacon. Can you pick it up?” It really took some work to coordinate the rescue volunteers and the venue chef all while properly storing the food without delaying prep for another event.

Food was rescued or recovered at all three main meals. We estimated that after one breakfast meal, approximately 150 pounds of food was rescued or recovered.


Does SWANA Wastecon plan to continue this practice at future events?

I believe we will continue to work to increase recovery efforts at future events and hopefully inspire others to take steps toward waste prevention and recovery.