America Recycles Day: composting, recycling rates on the rise

Several of the Company’s Las Vegas resorts now recycle more than half their total waste, exceeding the 50 percent, year-end recycling rate goal established by the Sustainability Division. A few resorts – Bellagio and ARIA – have managed to recycle more than 60 percent of their waste to date this year.

“We really didn’t understand how high our diversion rates could go. More and more, we’re realizing opportunities to identify new processes and new commodities to recycle,” said Sustainability Manager Regina Stepanov. “We are seeing huge improvements that, before, we weren’t aware were even possible. We’ve said that we are committed to achieving a 50 percent diversion rate by the beginning of 2014. Collectively, we are definitely approaching that and some properties are well beyond it.”

Recycling rates at every Strip resort have increased for 2013. Six resorts – Luxor, ARIA, MGM Grand Las Vegas, New York-New York, Monte Carlo and Bellagio – are diverting well over 50 percent of their waste from the landfill. Among the common denominators: robust composting programs for food scraps, paper and cardboard materials. Except for ARIA, one of two resorts which convert food scraps to animal feed, all of the properties exceeding 50 percent partner with A-1 Organics to compost waste into fertilizer (and ARIA’s horticulture team runs their own, limited composting program onsite.)

“With composting, we’re able to process food and other biodegradables like landscaping waste, soiled paper and cardboard – materials that were primarily going to the landfill,” said Ms. Stepanov. “That’s definitely the trend.”

At New York-New York, where the recycling dock was redesigned this year to make sorting materials more efficient, the 2013 recycling rate has reached 58 percent and is still climbing, said EVS and Uniforms Manager Carlene Beam, who oversees the resort’s sustainability initiatives.

“Before, lots of paper products were going into the trash compactor, but we reorganized to make it easier for the workers to sort it out,” she said. “We actually had a record month for compostables in October: 215 tons. It’s been a huge change for us.”

Black, A-1 Organics food bins have increasingly become a fixture in many restaurant kitchens across the Company. After launching a composting program in some of its restaurants this May, Circus Circus has seen its recycling rate jump from below 20 to more than 34 percent this year, among the biggest increases of any resort.

MGM Grand Food & Beverage teams emphasized upstream food recycling in restaurants to drive their rate up nearly 20 percentage points, achieving a 53 percent collective rate so far this year. Recent individual months have been higher still. Executive Chef Russ Hurry attributed the big increase to upstream recycling in restaurants.

“In probably 80 percent of the food outlets, we now have food recycling bins. Any waste from prep or anything that the customer doesn’t eat goes into a bin. The real key has been the buy-in of the chefs and managers in stewarding, and we’ve had terrific buy-in,” he said. “It’s only going to get better. We’ve just only scratched the surface. The sky is the limit with this upstream recycling.”

The best 2013 recycling rate to date belongs to Bellagio: 63 percent, through October. The resort early in 2012 rebid its recycling program, bringing in Renu Oil for the sorting program and A-1 Organics for composting among other recyclers. The resort ended 2012 with a 50 percent recycling rate and has been able to boost it again this year by streamlining processes, said Christopher Peisert, Director of Hotel Services and a co-chair of the resort’s Corporate Social Responsibility Council.

“Seeing the success we’ve had across the entire Company is exciting. It motivates everyone to see that we really can move the needle,” he said “Employees are increasingly aware that we have a successful recycling program at MGM Resorts hotels. Just a few short years ago, that wasn’t the case – nobody realized we recycled at all. With this increased awareness the Company’s sustainability accomplishments are also reaching more guests.”