October 11, 2016
The World Series is around the corner and my team (the Blue Jays) has advanced to the American League Championship Series (Yay team!). Other than baseball, I can’t say that I’m a huge sports fan. However, even to us not so sports-oriented types, it is more than apparent how sports, athletes, and teams influence our lives. Of course we look up to professional athletes and hope they represent “the best” of humanity, at least in terms of performance and skill. Beyond these attributes, many people, particularly youth, look up to athletes as role models and good citizens. Admiration perhaps not always warranted, but common nonetheless.
Sports arenas and facilities have important roles in being good environmental role models, helping to shape the behaviors of fans by being leaders in advancing recycling and food scrap diversion. Of course, sports fans come to arenas for the sports action. However, they also eat and drink and consequently generate lots of waste, either directly or indirectly. From the moment fans enter the stadium parking lots for their tailgate parties, to purchasing hot dogs and drinks while watching the game, sports venues offer high visibility opportunities for promoting “being green” and diverting waste.
In addition to recyclable cans and bottles, much of the serviceware at stadiums—including paper trays, cups, plates, and food scraps—are already compostable, or divertible through anaerobic digestion. By switching to compostable serviceware and available composting (or AD) services, stadiums can successfully reach diversion rates of 80% or more. There are many examples of success, as arenas and sports facilities around the world have developed highly effective waste diversion programs, many of which result in cost efficiencies.
Materials management and handling solutions and opportunities for sports complexes vary widely, and the complexity of sports venues can make adoption a challenge. A diverse group of stakeholders have to be involved; including venue owners/managers, team owners/tenants, food service providers, cleanup crews/contractors, waste hauling contractors, and others.
Zero Waste at Yankee Stadium
Recycle Away started working with the New York Yankees in 2014 to help the team implement a zero waste program at Yankee Stadium. With the goal of eliminating trash from the stadium, a two-stream system was setup—one for recycling of bottles and cans, and the other for compostable material. As a large sports complex, the team also wanted containers that looked aesthetically pleasing, fit into their “brand standard”, and were durable.
The Yankees strived to make recycling and composting easy for fans, and a basic part of the Yankee Stadium experience. The team switched to compostable serviceware. Located throughout the public concourses are receptacles with two compartments for guests to divide their trash: one for cans and plastic bottles, and one for compostables including food waste, beverage cups, food packaging, straws, napkins, and utensils. The team also works with Rock and Wrap It Up to donate unused food to the homeless.
The stadium now diverts 85% of its waste and is on path to surpass 90% diversion.
College Stadium Diversion
The GameDay Recycling Challenge is a nationwide competition among universities to reduce and recycle the waste generated at home football games. The Challenge is administered by the College and University Recycling Coalition (CURC), RecycleMania, Keep America Beautiful and the US Environmental Protection Agency’s WasteWise. Schools participating in the Challenge report recycling, composting, and attendance data for at least one home football game. In 2015, 99 schools participated, resulting in the recycling of more than 2 million pounds of bottles, cans, paper, and cardboard. More than 450,000 pounds of food scraps from stadiums and tailgating areas were composted as well.
The 2015 “Diversion Rate Champion” was Ohio University, which achieved a 95% waste diversion rate. The “Total Recycling Champion” was Louisiana State University, with 86,000+ pounds recycled.
By Athena Lee Bradley
Two earlier NERC blogs on recycling and food scrap diversion at ball fields are: Play Ball, Recycle, and Compost and Sustainability in the Big Leagues. For more information on the Yankees’ Zero Waste program up, check out the Recycle Away Case Study.