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National Restaurant Association - ATL airport eyes Green Acres project

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ATL airport eyes Green Acres project

As Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport prepares to debut its new international terminal this month, airport officials are turning their attention to the next phase of the facility's eco-friendly plan: the potential construction of a working farm and waste processing plant on 40 acres of the airport's land.

The project is now in the strategic planning stages.

Called Green Acres-Atlanta, the project would consist of an education center, urban farm and a waste-processing facility, where much of the city's garbage — would be recycled and composted into reusable resources such as water, electricity, biofuel and animal feed. The material would come from the airport's pre-and post-consumer food waste, organic and nonorganic compostable material, used grease and area yard trimmings, according to Michael Cheyne, the airport's director of asset management and sustainability.

"We're excited about what's going on, but we're not naïve about the ease of making it happen," he said.

Cheyne noted that he also is excited about securing funding to build the education center, which would be integral to teaching future generations about the importance of sustainability.

"The education center is where [students] will be able to come and see what a composting facility really is or touch a solar panel," he said. "It may take two to three generations to change the culture, but we can do it."

Cheyne, along with Elemental Impact, an Atlanta-based sustainability nonprofit, contract foodservice conglomerate HMSHost and the National Restaurant Association, worked together on the airport's plan to recycle and compost food waste at the new international terminal. The planning and testing was completed through Elemental Impact's Sustainable Food Court Initiative. Chris Moyer, senior project manager for the NRA's Conserve Sustainability Education Program, serves as the SFCI's co-chair.

The new terminal's grand opening is slated for May 16.

Earlier this year, Moyer said Hartsfield's sustainability plans, which include the utilization of compostable food packaging at foodservice concessions, are "game changing because of the sheer size of the airport. ... They essentially are changing the way food items are [presented] there."

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