Increasing Compost at Music City Center

Music City Center, a 2.1 million square foot facility, is located in the heart of downtown Nashville. The award-winning convention center is LEED Gold certified and maintains its commitment to advance sustainable practices throughout the building. Since opening in 2013, one of MCC’s key green initiatives has been food waste reduction.

Why compost?

If organic materials end up in the landfill, they eventually decompose in an environment deprived of oxygen. This process produces methane, the second most common greenhouse gas emission next to carbon dioxide. Composting diverts valuable material from the landfill and allows food scraps to be used in a new way. From the planning stages of an event to compost bin pickup, MCC continues to refine the way it manages food waste and credits its success to a dedicated team.

The catering sales team helps clients determine their food and beverage needs based on the type of event and number of attendees. The food and beverage team then calculates the amount of food that should be prepared, using as many locally sourced products and ingredients as possible.

Despite careful planning, food waste still occurs. One way that chefs try to combat waste is by purchasing pre-cut raw vegetables to lessen the amount of food scraps. During food preparation, the team collects scraps in compost-designated containers. These green bins, which are used to differentiate the compost collection from the trash collection, are easily transported on different floors through dollies. Each is printed with “Compost: Food and Organic Material Only” in three different languages to ensure the process is successfully implemented. Purchasing dedicated bins for compost results in increased participation and improved results on waste diversion.

Post event process

As guests finish their meals, the team prepares to handle leftovers. By reviewing the event order ahead of time, the team is alerted to what can be sorted. This consists of sorting the food and the disposable servingware from non-compostable items. Through annual training from The Compost Company, kitchen supervisors learn about collection and disposal. Helpful tips which have been implemented include disposing bags when they are three quarters full so they are easier to handle and won’t tear from the weight of the food. The bags are then placed in the compost container.

Once filled, the compost container is picked up by The Compost Company, which processes meats, vegetables, breads, dairy and certified compostable serving products. MCC uses a 10-cubic yard dumpster that can be completely locked and sealed so that no leaks of food waste or odors will make their way out of the fully enclosed container. When the container is picked up, these organic materials are turned into soil that is rich in nutrients, instead of being wasted in a landfill.

Leftover food that is not served is donated to nonprofit partners such as the Nashville Rescue Mission, which provides to the vulnerable in the community. The leftover food is packaged up in the kitchen and brought to the warehouse where it is stored at a safe temperature. Donations take the form of prepared meals, boxed lunches or raw ingredients. Because of the building’s proximity to the Mission, pickups can occur the same day when called, resulting in fresh food and meals being consumed promptly.

Last fiscal year, MCC composted a total of 131,162 pounds of organic material. Since opening, the amount has double each year, demonstrating how MCC continues to evolve in its diversion processes. Rescued food from this past year adds up to 40,395 pounds, or about 33,000 meals to feed the hungry through MCC’s nonprofit partners.

Music City Center takes pride in and encourages food waste reduction, recovery and diversion in keeping with its mission to focus on sustainability and reducing its environmental impact.