Ashley Elzinga

Ashley Elzinga

Ashley Elzinga

Speaker | Foodservice Packaging Institute

Falls Church, VA |

Ashley Elzinga is director of sustainability and outreach for the Foodservice Packaging Institute, the trade association for the North American foodservice packaging industry. At FPI, work primarily focuses around communications, outreach and FPI’s recovery efforts.

Prior to joining the association, Elzinga has worked in different positions within the sustainability and environmental fields. Her most recent position was with Dart Container Corp. where she was the social responsibility and sustainability specialist. Before that position, she acted as the company’s recycling and community outreach specialist.

Elzinga holds a Bachelor of Science degree from Grand Valley State University with a minor in Environmental Studies. When not going on adventures with their corgi, Dutch, Ashley and her husband enjoy working toward their goal to visit all 30 Major League Baseball stadiums — 10 down, 20 still to go.

Session Code: F5

Track: Diversion and Collection

Session Name: Trends in Collecting Organics

Session Time: Thursday, Jan 26, 11:00 AM – 12:30 PM

Presentation Title: Will Implementation of Compostables Reduce Contamination and Capture More Food?

Presentation Description: As the foodservice industry pursues zero waste, operators are increasingly relying on certified compostable serviceware products to meet their goals. Composters receiving post-consumer loads from these venues understand that contamination, if not actively managed, will present serious problems. It will impact processing costs, finished product quality and value, and even restrict access to markets.  Venues rely on compostables to make the process of waste elimination simpler for users, which will boost the rate and quality of participation. All these benefits are aimed at delivering less food scraps to landfill and more to composters.

How does the use of compostables correlate to levels of food capture? What best practices will curb contamination? In 2022, a collaboration of partners launched “CompostAble Chicago” to develop an approach that can answer these very questions. A fundamental project objective was to draw a stronger correlation between the implementation of compostable serviceware, rates of food capture, and levels of contamination. The Project Team collected operational information from four Chicago venues and conducted detailed waste characterizations on the materials streams from these venues, then overlaid the findings with details related to best practices. After developing a framework for the evaluation, the Project Team examined the resulting patterns and relationships. Additionally, a guide was prepared to serve as a replicable model for others who wish to contribute to the longer-term objective of building an abundant repository of data from other venues that can strengthen our understanding of the correlations.

In this session, presenters will walk participants through the project context and rationale, methodology, key findings and aims for the future.