Chicago airport restaurants to get greener

Chicago airport restaurants to get greener

City to require environmentally friendly packaging, recycling by end of 2013

The city of Chicago is calling on concessionaires at its two major airports to adopt several environmentally friendly standards at all of their on-site restaurants by the end of 2013.

The Chicago Department of Aviation, or CDA, released its Green Concessions Policy and a complementary Guide to Green Concessions Operations on Monday in honor of Earth Day. Over the next several months, the department will train the concessionaires at O’Hare International Airport and Midway International Airport to ensure they are ready to comply with the new policy.

Concessionaires will now be required to ban polystyrene foam, or Styrofoam, from all its packaging and disposable containers, as well as to ban all petroleum-based plastics from takeout bags, trash bags, disposable containers and utensils. They also must implement source-separating programs to sort all used food and trash into the appropriate recycling and composting bins.

On-site restaurants will also be required to use recycled paper in their offices for printing and all other purposes. In addition, all surplus food is to be donated to the greatest extent allowable by food safety regulations rather than being thrown away at the end of the day.

By 2016, concessionaires also will be required to procure a minimum of 20 percent of food costs from sustainable sources.

"Chicago has been a leader in airport sustainability for the past 10 years, embracing the best possible environmental, social and fiscally responsible practices to enhance the quality of life of airport stakeholders," CDA commissioner Rosemarie S. Andolino said in a statement. "The CDA’s new green-concessions policy is among the first of its kind in the airport industry and is another great example of how Chicago’s airports continue to serve as a benchmark for environmental stewardship."

In 2011, the CDA introduced the "Green Airplane Rating" for all airport vendors that incorporate sustainable planning and practices in their design, construction and everyday operations processes as laid out in the "Sustainable Airport Manual" developed by the department. More than 100 vendors and projects have attained the rating, including HMSHost Corp., which oversees concessions at three terminals at O’Hare, and Midway Airport Concessionaires, which runs Midway’s foodservice outlets.

In a statement emailed to Nation’s Restaurant News, HMSHost said it "plans to get clarity on the requirements and will attend the training referenced in the Chicago Department of Aviation’s announcement" and will work with the CDA "to determine how best to meet these new requirements."

Chicago’s call for greener packaging and chemicals, more sustainably sourced food, and recycling and composting all are requirements for approval from the Green Restaurant Association, which supported the city’s policy even though it will not be involved with the certification or auditing processes. "It’s a big step forward that an airport would require these environmental measures," said Michael Oshman, founder and chief executive of the Boston-based association. "If done with proper, transparent standards and auditing, it could be wonderful to get these restaurants to change and educate all the travelers coming through those airports."

He said the proposals to procure new packaging, establish recycling and composting programs and use greener chemicals could be realized easily by the end-of-2013 deadline. The Green Restaurant Association has consulted individual restaurants to change their practices and attain the organization's highest certifications in shorter time periods, Oshman said, and it always depends on how intently the foodservice outlet is willing to move.

"Is [this initiative] feasible? Yes," Oshman said. "If this many restaurants in a concentrated location did it in eight months, that’d be cause for celebration. What they have going for them is they’re all in one place, and they’re mandated to do it. That gets restaurants moving quickly when their landlord requires something."

Contact Mark Brandau at [email protected] [6].
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