Caesars Entertainment has an in-house goal to divert 50 percent of its total waste from landfill by 2020. Entitled CodeGreen, the program includes various initiatives at its more than 49 casino and resort properties. The goal was put in place in 2008, but it wasn’t until three years ago that a baseline was established and progress across the board was made.
Jeff Ruskowitz, manager of engineering and sustainable operations, joined Caesars in 2013 and assumed responsibility for the company’s diversion goals. Among his first moves was establishing a baseline, which meant company-wide monthly reporting of waste prevention, recycling, composting and buying/manufacturing of recycled-content products. Using that data, the team determined Caesars had achieved 23 percent diversion heading into 2014.
Within another year, the company began working with Ecova for waste consulting. Ecova, an energy and sustainability management company, was already working with Caesars on its utilities procurement and usage. Ecova brought experience with waste haulers and the industry to the table, along with data and technology, says Kristin Kinder, project lead, waste solutions, LEED green associate at Ecova.
“We understand all the nuances,” she says.
Whether it’s a data perspective, audits, or cost savings, Ecova offers clients ways to focus efforts on their specific needs, says Kinder.
“We have that data to start with,” she says. “And I think that Caesars is a fantastic example of having the patience to take a step back when it’s really tempting to try to move forward with lots of different initiatives.”
Taking the time to stop and get an actual baseline, gave them the opportunity to be successful in waste diversion, Kinder says.
The Ecova Platform, which combines data technology and energy offering insight and includes services such as waste bill processing and analysis, waste procurement and service management and zero waste initiatives, gave the Caesars a chance to see where they were and where they needed to move forward in waste diversion.
When you’re looking at locations, especially Las Vegas, you’re seeing guests from literally all of the world, Kinder says. You’re looking not only at different departments but different cultures coming together. “So you really have to be flexible with different departments as well as the customers,” she says.
In Las Vegas, the company instead puts the sorting responsibility on employees.
“We try to make it as easy as possible for the customers,” says Ruskowitz. “We get a lot of international travelers here in Vegas. People who have never been to our properties – people who are coming to Vegas for the first time. And are only here for a week or so. Trying to educate them in that little bit of time is difficult,” he says.
Employee sorting completely eliminates that requirement where guests are concerned and the focus can be on educating employees.
“Frankly it’s becoming easier," Ruskowitz says. "Most of our employees are aware of what’s going on. Even the new hires know about our green program. It’s implemented in our orientation now. So we really start right away on educating them on how to do everything the right way so there’s no issues down the line.”
At regional properties, the company relies more heavily on its guests, putting sorting bins on floors for their use.
“We see that the guests there are local to the community so they take a little bit more responsibility since it’s their home, really," he says. "Whereas in Vegas, they’re usually traveling guests. They’re having fun and they don’t want to worry about having to sort."
As for employees, Ruskowitz participates with CodeGreen teams made up of representatives from each department, who meet once a month. Ruskowitz began heavily participating in the meetings after receiving the detailed waste audit reports from Ecova. He took note of what was going on at locations that were doing well and encouraged those who weren’t doing as well to implement similar ideas. Some places were diverting more than 50 percent to 60 percent and some were doing much less, he says.
Caesars took advantage of the waste audits offered by Ecova. Hands-on inspections of nine tons of waste at the Horseshoe, Hammond in Indiana and the Rio in Las Vegas allowed Ruskowitz to see what else they needed to do.
“It was really eye-opening,” he says. Silverware, for example, was being tossed in the trash. The waste audit gave the company and employees a different perspective.
“It’s ‘I can’t believe what was in there.’ It really drives home what we’re trying to teach them as far as sorting. The biggest thing is it really encourages them to be proactive and look. It’s a visual for them,” he says.
Another eye opener was with food waste.
“There’s a lot of food being produced at Caesars properties. Naturally when you’re producing that much food, there’s going to be a lot of food waste – prep waste and some post-consumer waste, too. So we go through a lot of food tonnage every day,” says Ruskowitz.
With help from Ecova, Caesars finds non-landfill solutions for food waste. They transport the waste to the local composting and pig farm facilities, as well as to food banks and bioenergy facilities.
Ruskowitz says with Ecova’s network and knowledge every divertible material uncovered in the audit has a diversion solution to accommodate it.
Another result from the waste audit is the use of an onsite food digester in Hammond.
“We are taking food from the line onsite and processing it onsite. So there’s no transportation. That’s going pretty well so far. That’s cuts out some emissions from having to transport it somewhere and still diverts it from the landfill,” he says.
So there’s a lot of best practices from one property being implemented by another in some way, and that seems to be working for Caesars.
In 2014, the company saw a 9 percent increase in waste diverted from landfill compared to 2013, for an overall waste diversion rate of 44 percent. That’s 50,000 tons of waste diverted. The approach is to reduce waste to the greatest extent possible and recycle the unavoidable waste wherever possible. Diversion efforts have yielded positive results, including diversion, reduced carbon emissions and lowers costs. In 2014, its waste diversion efforts delivered $4 million of bottom-line value.