The roar of a crowd. The sound of a buzzer. The mounds of single-use plastics and wasted food.
Sodexo, French-owned food and facilities management company, operates in 55 countries and hosts more than 500 million customers per day, from schools to corporate facilities to live event venues.
Molly Crouch, Sodexo corporate director of sustainability, recently spoke with Waste360 about the company and how its waste reduction efforts at these facilities is changing Sodexo's operations.
Waste360: Can you tell me a little about your specific role at Sodexo?
Crouch: My role is really to support our teams on and in the field and meet them where they are when it comes to sustainability initiatives. I also make sure they're aware of what our corporate initiatives are and figure out how we can best incorporate those within their line of business.
Underneath this Sodexo umbrella, there are convention centers and conference centers, music, amphitheaters, ski resorts, water parks and amusement parks. We have cultural destinations like museums. We have zoos and aquariums. We also have airline lounge. We have kind an array what we used to call sports and leisure underneath each corporate sustainability director. Each one has their own kind of intricacies and some lines of business are further along in the sustainability world than others, like convention centers. Globally, we've got some pretty strong initiatives.
Waste360: Live events are complex and dynamic from the size of the venue, how its operated and, of course, the attendees. How does Sodexo structure food waste reduction?
Crouch: If you look at the EPA's food hierarchy triangle, it's an upside-down triangle. The top one is source reduction at the very bottom, one is landfill. From source reduction, you go down to feeding people, feeding animals and then there are industrial uses - which is basically recycling your used cooking oil and grease trap solids - and then you get into compost and landfill. From Sodexo's perspective, we try our best to source reduce. We start at the top.
It starts with less waste from the beginning and alot of that is done through the ordering process and through the firing of the food. In other words, we deliberately make sure that we're not firing more food than what we need and that towards the end of whatever the function may be, whether it's a football game or a concert or a convention or something a zoo or an aquarium, we're preparing that food as needed towards the end of that event. We work really tightly with our clients to identify the flow of the event and what they traditionally have seen at their event.
If it's something that's repetitive and most of the people leave after [a certain time], they're ready to go. We work on breaking this down, for instance, if its a buffet. We work on gathering goods and bringing them to the most popular concession stand that we might have open to try to get rid of the product. If we end up with product, [we use] the hazard analysis cycle control point which basically is all about time and temperature from when the food was ready to when you actually serve it to how long you hold it. If it's still within a four-hour window, then we're able to donate it. We are able to either quick freeze it or donate it right off the bat. There are a couple of donation places that we can just call and some of our venues can call and say, "hey, we're gonna have some extra product," and they'll show up with a van and pick it up right then and there and take it back to their facility. Some of [the food we just flash freeze and put it into another cooler to where they can come pick it up the next day.
The next thing we do is try to feed animals. We have a lot of our properties that are actually doing pig farming. At Baltimore Convention Center, for instance, they actually keep all your fresh lettuce and things that can't be sorted again because of time and temperature - being out too long or cuttings from trimming in the kitchen when they're preparing the food. We save all that waste. We keep it in the actual cooler down by the dock. The pig farmer comes in and picks it all up and takes it out to his pigs. We also do it in Vegas and San Diego out with pigs as well.
If we can't feed animals, the next thing would be to track it through our technology called Leanpath. Basically, all the food makes it back to the dish area or to the common kitchen area. There's a scale and a little tablet. We weigh it really fast. It ttakes 12 seconds total for the whole transaction. You weigh it and [the technology] can take a picture for you, or you can take your own picture. We submit what it is, and then I put the disposition of what's gonna happen to it, whether it's going to go into the compost, whether it's going to go for donation or whether it's going to go to the pig farmers. So, there are ways to track it. From a waste perspective, we want to try to fix it from the beginning. If we can't fix it from the beginning, we want to feed people with it. If we can't feed people with it, we want to feed the animals with it.
If we can't do that, then we wanna compost it. We also have some places that have some digesters on the property, which are anaerobic digesters, which is a fast version of composting.
Hear more from Molly Crouch at the Food Recovery Forum at WasteExpo May 1-4 in New Orleans during the session "Food Waste Reduction Technology, Infrastructure, Supply Chain Efficiency; Best Practices and 50% Reduction by 2025 at Live Venues."