“With help from Seattle Public Utilities and their campaign for compostable take-out food containers and in partnership with Cedar Grove, EMP Museum was able to go all-in and 100 percent compostable."
The fabled Experience Music Project (EMP) is known as a funky Seattle landmark known best for its exquisite, one-of-a-kind musical collections, exhibits, programs and performances. Flying lower on the radar is the EMP’s amazing food composting program at the facility where only 100 percent compostable packaging is used for all food services. According to Lee Richardson, assistant director of facilities and museum operations at EMP, their one bin system is “no fail”.
The iconic EMP Museum attracts many tourists who are unfamiliar with composting and have little experience or patience with using the three bin system for waste, compost and recycle. (And let’s face it, even many locals get confused.) So when everything on your plate, and including your plate, can go into one bin, sorting confusion and contaminated bins disappear. Everything thrown away gets transformed into compost.
Richardson finds the one bin system to be a simpler solution for commercial kitchens serving large numbers of people. The model makes economic sense as well. Richardson, who has been at the EMP for 13 years, has learned from experience and contributed to the design, evolution and execution of best practices.
The facility’s first composting efforts in 2006 led to system-wide composting in 2011 when Wolfgang Puck restaurants took over all the food businesses. With help from Seattle Public Utilities and their campaign for compostable take-out food containers and in partnership with Cedar Grove, EMP Museum was able to go all-in and 100 percent compostable.
To make the change viable, the new efforts had to make financial sense, improve building sustainability and perform well. Richardson finds that a fixed cost for packaging rather than paying a per ton cost for dumping offers a significantly better value rate and more budget predictability. EMP is currently diverting 51 percent of their annual waste stream to recycling and composting.
And the EMP Museum finds the packaging is attractive, strong and compostable. It works everywhere from the restaurant to catered events to take out. An in-house compost bin washing machine dramatically reduces the number of liners and cans they need. It also serves the museum’s need for extraordinary cleanliness to protect fragile collections and exhibits.
Getting to zero waste is a huge challenge. It is satisfying to be able to supply packaging that allows organizations like EMP Museum to have a simpler working solution that is financially viable and makes good use of waste instead of sending it to a landfill.