June, glorious June! Summer is finally arriving, and so is another featured member. This month, I chose to interview Lily Kelly, the director of Global Green USA’s Coalition for Resource Recovery (CoRR). As many of our members know, Global Green has recently joined our network, so I thought it would be a great time for everyone to get to know our newest member!
SB: Lily, I’d like to welcome you again and thank you for sharing your time with The Paper Planet’s readers. Global Green USA seems to have some exciting and diverse projects. Can you explain how CoRR seeks to drive innovation and what is the goal of the project?
LK: Thanks, Suzanna! It’s a pleasure to have this opportunity. CoRR is a project of Global Green USA, which means we come at the question of paper recycling with a focus on waste recovery systems as elements of a healthy, sustainable human habitat. The way we pursue solutions is by bringing together multiple stakeholders in the supply chain to pilot systems that, if logistically successful and cost-effective, could be transferable to other locations across the country. Our ultimate goal is to stem climate change and create business value by diverting all “wastes” into beneficial inputs for new manufacturing processes.
SB: Your work involves getting out into the field, rolling up your sleeves and being hands-on with testing solutions. What does it mean for Global Green USA to focus on “pilot projects”?
LK: This is the best part of my day! When we pilot something, it means our members provide products or equipment that are designed to reduce or recover waste; then we find a place to test it out, we bring everyone together to learn about how and why it works, and we put it through its paces. For example, if we’re testing recyclable boxes for use by farms, we go to the farms, bring some recyclable boxes with us, pack them with produce, run them through the coolers, send them to a grocer, and video the whole thing. If we’re helping get a front-of-house bin system going at a restaurant, as another example, we may focus mainly on evaluating the success of the bin through waste sorts, site visits, material recovery facility tours, and staff interviews.
SB: I saw you recently completed a pilot project with Pret A Manger. Can you briefly describe that? What were the final results and what do they mean for your vision for increased recycling of foodservice paper product?
LK: Pret has a commitment to reaching 75% diversion at 80% of their stores, and we were asked to help them achieve it. We connected them to a bin manufacturer and also worked with their packaging suppliers and their waste hauler to make everything was as compatible as possible. The bin manufacturer made sure that the bin matched the store’s décor, that the messaging was clear, and that it was easy for the staff to use. The packaging manufacturer helped us test pre-consumer packaging for recyclability at the pilot plant at Western Michigan University in accordance with their repulpability and recyclability protocols (we also tested post-consumer packaging, and both passed). The findings from the pilot really surprised a lot of folks in the industry. Our most significant findings were, first, that customers do a good job of sorting, even in New York City where people aren’t used to separating their waste at restaurants. Second, their hauler was able to sell the post-consumer paper foodservice packaging as part of their mixed waste paper bale with no effect on the bale price. That means that, even though people worry a lot about the food residue, it isn’t significant enough to cause a problem for the mills receiving it.
SB: Your video ‘Results of Recyclable Produce Box Pilots’ is exciting to watch. Its powerful to see that if we could design these types of produce boxes to be recycled it would could save the energy equal to the emissions from a coal plant. It also looks like the partnership and experiences working with the farmers must have been fascinating. What has been your favorite part of that work?
LK: My favorite part is seeing everyone interacting and learning. Every farm is different, and it’s such a valuable and exciting experience to see firsthand how the produce is harvested, packed, cooled, stored, and shipped. I’ve also found that farmers are a real pleasure to work with, and are very generous with their time once they know what we’re trying to do – they are really excited to get rid of those wax-coated boxes. Plus, getting out into the open air in beautiful locations like Salinas and Belle Glade is always delightful.
LK: Green Cross International has a presence in over 30 countries, and focuses on minimizing weapons of mass destruction and providing clean water in addition to working to stem climate change. Being part of GCI helps us to keep our work in perspective as part of a global effort to ensure that humans will have a healthy and sustainable future in all aspects and in every part of the world.
SB: What inspires and drives you personally to seek solutions to the environmental challenges we face like solid waste and climate change?
LK: I have the typical environmentalist’s history – I grew up in a rural town, and spent a lot of time outside enjoying the natural world. I also saw at an early age the damage done to it by poor land use and pollution, and the harm those practices imposed on the people who lived there as well. I’ve wanted to work to address those problems since I was very young, and I’m incredibly lucky to be able to say that today I am basically working at my dream job.
SB: We are very glad that Global Green USA has joined the Paper Network and linked its fantastic work to this collective Vision across all paper sectors. What motivated you to link up with the EPN and its members?
LK: I had heard about EPN off and on for a few years and kept meaning to learn more. One of our partners suggested a few months ago that we join, and I finally looked into it more deeply. There is immense benefit in coordinating with and learning from other NGOs working to improve paper manufacturing and recovery practices, and we are excited to work with all the members of the EPN to move this industry toward truly sustainable solutions.
Thanks for getting to know Lily Kelly and Global Green. Please keep an eye out in July for our next featured member.