The New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center Achieves 84% Recycling Rate on Recent Renovation Project


Diverting discarded building materials from landfills helps further sustainability goals

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NEW ORLEANSThe New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center (NOENMCC) is taking its recycling efforts to a new level. In addition to expanding its robust recycling program for clients and events, the NOENMCC is working to ensure that the majority of the building materials cast off during renovations that are underway will not end up in landfills.

The latest project of the Convention Center’s ongoing $557 million capital improvement plan is a major interior renovation encompassing all meeting rooms and public spaces. In keeping with its ongoing commitment to sustainability and maintaining the facility’s LEED Gold certification, the NOENMCC is working to ensure the renovation project maximizes opportunities to reduce waste, divert materials from landfills and improve energy efficiency.

Surpassing its goal of 50% waste diversion for a recent renovation project, the Convention Center has exceeded expectations by diverting 84% of the waste produced during the project’s first stage. Between July and September 2023, roughly 550,000 pounds of construction waste left the building. Of that, about 461,650 pounds of waste was diverted from landfills. The Convention Center also recycled masonry, lights, scrap, cardboard and plastic as much as possible, sending the discarded materials to local vendors and recycling companies.

“We’ve made it a priority to be proactive about reducing our environmental footprint,” said Adam J. Straight, the NOENMCC’s Chief Operating Officer. “That means we’re always looking for ways to improve efficiency and reduce waste. In such an expansive facility, construction projects present multiple opportunities to reduce, reuse, recycle and, ultimately, return.”

Along with installing new, sustainably sourced ceiling panels, the NOENMCC is enrolled in the Armstrong Ceilings Recycling Program, which helps reduce construction waste and embodied carbon (greenhouse gas emissions arising from the manufacturing of building materials) on commercial renovation projects. To divert thousands of the NOENMCC’s discarded ceiling panels from landfills, workers load them onto pallets, and Armstrong transports them to a manufacturing facility to be processed and used to make new ceiling material with high recycled content.

To install new custom floor coverings, workers removed the existing carpet and sent it off to be recycled.  These two programs – recycling all carpet and ceiling tile to be used to make new products – represent a significant portion of the recycling rate.

As a LEED certified facility, the Convention Center adheres to a maintenance and renovation policy focused on sustainable best practices. This policy calls for the use of low VOC coatings and paints and requires building materials to be made with recycled content. Many of the products used are also highly recyclable to maximize end-of-use recycling down the road.

“Linda Baynham, our Director of Sustainability and Corporate Social Responsibility, and our Operations team have really gone above and beyond to show how major projects can be done in a sustainable way,” said Michael J. Sawaya, Convention Center President/CEO. “Our hope is that, by sharing our recycling goals, processes and results, we will inspire other companies and facilities to expand their own recycling efforts and sustainability programs and practices.”

About the New Orleans Ernest N. Morial Convention Center (NOENMCC)

New Orleans is Built to Host! With 1.1 million square feet of prime exhibit space on one level, all under one roof, NOENMCC is the sixth largest Convention Center in the United States and provides the largest single exhibit space in the country. NOENMCC is a 2023 IAVM Venue Excellence recipient and is consistently named a regional top workplace by The Times-Picayune/The New Orleans Advocate. Our recent LEED Gold certification makes NOENMCC the largest LEED-certified project in Louisiana and the largest convention center project in the U.S. certified under LEED v4.1 Operations and Maintenance, as well as the first convention center in the world to be awarded initial certification under LEED Gold v4.1 O+M. A leading contributor to the city’s robust tourism economy, NOENMCC event activity has produced $90.1 billion in economic impact since its 1985 opening.