Sporting events take place in all kinds of settings, from stadiums to soccer parks to trails. The features of the setting and the crowds dictate the recycling and waste reduction strategies that work best.

Consider recycling from the start

Address waste reduction and recycling in purchases and procurements.

  • Make room for recycling
    • Permanent facilities need sites for at least two extra dumpsters or roll-off boxes to store recyclable materials; one for commingled bottles and cans and one for cardboard. In some cases, office paper is mixed with cardboard and in other arrangements it is separated; the recycling hauler should be consulted.
    • Extra storage space for recycling can prevent urgent needs for pick-ups and save money by preventing driver overtime costs.
    • Public areas should have room for trash and recycling receptacles along lines of traffic flow and where people gather to consume food and beverages.
    • Wisconsin law and local ordinances require that space for recycling be included in new construction and remodeling of commercial and institutional properties.
  • Specify waste reduction and recycling responsibilities in service contracts and job descriptions.
    • Recycling responsibilities added after agreements have been finalized may be seen as less important as the responsibilities that are spelled out in contracts.
  • Choose materials that can be reused or recycled.
    • Know the materials that recycling haulers accept.
    • A setting that does not allow carry-ins can benefit from requiring vendors to use only food and drink containers that are compatible with the event�s recycling program.
    • Olympic venues for the 2002 Salt Lake City event used biodegradable plates, bowl, cups utensils and napkins that allowed all stadium trash (food residue included) to be taken to a compost facility. Learn more about plates, bowls, utensils and cups derived from corn starch by reading the case study for the Midwest Renewable Energy and Sustainable Living Fair provided in this guide.
    • Purchase durable signs and displays that can be used year after year. Craft the messages to be relevant in future years and make storage plans for the materials.
  • Design souvenir cups for double-duty
    • If drinks are served in cups, consider using attractive souvenir cups that fans and participants can take home.
    • The cost of the souvenir cup purchase can be offset by encouraging customers to bring the cup back for a refill. One event that used 7500 cups sold 8400 drinks with that supply by offering refills.
    • Some vendors pass the refill savings on to customers by offering a discount for refills. The discount not only encourages the customer to reuse, but to buy more, so it benefits the vendor as well.
    • Note that beverage dispensers that touch the lip of the cup cannot be used for refills. Generally, beer taps, push-button dispensers and those that touch the base of the cup can be used without posing health risks. Check with your health department.
    • Many souvenir cups are made with HDPE plastic (marked with a 2 inside the recycling arrows). These are accepted for recycling in some markets; check with your recycling hauler.
    • Introducing new designs for the cups makes them collectible and compels fans who already have a souvenir cup at home to keep a new one too.
  • Refine purchasing to reduce excesses that become trash.
    • Tell vendors to forgo lids, bags and other �to-go� packaging. Fans connect the foods with enjoying the sport and eat them at the venue; they are not saved to eat at home later.
    • Refine quantities of printed programs. Track the amount that go unused and adjust future orders. Consider leaving out information that has less souvenir value and can be better conveyed with a sign or announcements.
    • A high school team stopped making printed programs and used a projector to display the information about players and sponsors. A projected message adds to the spectator experience because the crowd watches and reacts together.
    • Condiments in dispensers, rather than disposable packets, reduce waste at food vendor stations.
    • Evaluate things that have a short useful life. Would they be missed if they weren�t purchased in the first place?
    • Arrange for suppliers of bottled beverages to take back their pallets for reuse when making deliveries.
  • Allow time to compare prices, gather bids and negotiate.
    • The terms of waste and recycling hauling agreements vary widely. This is not only because of changing markets for the materials, but what their customers will tolerate.
    • View the contract considerations tools and tips for involving haulers provided in this guide.
    • Ask for references when hiring recycling haulers and grounds crews that will have recycling responsibilities, and allow time to check them. Don�t miss the opportunity to ask the references for their insights about making recycling work.
    • If possible, ask to borrow sample recycling bins and give them a trial run before purchasing them. The test can be done in a small area to evaluate the public�s behaviors in using the bins and the cleaning crew�s handling of them.

Enlist help in crafting the plans

  • Find municipal recycling coordinators, environmental organizations and peers that offer support.
    • Ask local officials about the requirements for your setting. Some may provide lists of vendors that offer services or equipment to support recycling programs.
    • Share ideas and advice with people who manage similar facilities.
    • Check the Resource List section of this guide.
  • Ask for advice from insiders.
    • Your own operations manager may have plenty of insights to help plan a smooth program.
    • Cleaning crew members may notice what gets discarded and where.
    • Note what the vendors plan to use as beverage containers to anticipate quantities of plastic bottles that will later be discarded at the site. And remember that plastic beer bottles are packed in cardboard, another material to recycle.
    • Get input from cleaning staff when choosing recycling bins that they will be responsible for emptying.
    • Ask publicity coordinators to help plan recycling signs that stand out while complementing the look and feel of the venue.
  • Learn from the successes of others.
    • Read about a variety of programs featured in Case Studies.
  • Train the cleaning crew.
    • Use input from the crew and authorize members to respond to problems and fine tune the program. Share information about Recycling Trouble Shooting that is provided in this guide.
    • More information can be found in the section of this guide titled, Involving Cleaning Crews.

Suit the System to the Setting

Learn about the trash and how it�s generated

  • Assess the waste stream by identifying the disposable materials vendors distribute, noting trash and recyclables from carry-ins and tail gating, reviewing waste hauling records -- and looking in dumpsters.
  • Use the facts about your trash and crowd seating to decide what to recycle, where to collect it and how.
    • Fans in the stands leave a lot of trash and bottles on the floor and in cup holders. Most of the material they discard is what they buy from vendors. One stadium sends cleaning crews down the rows with two bags in hand � a black bag for trash and a clear bag for recyclable bottles and cans.
    • If carry-ins are confiscated at entrances, those locations need receptacles for recyclable bottles � and a drain for emptying liquids. People look for recycling and trash containers when they are on their way out of the venue too.
    • Some fans consume bottled drinks near vendor stands. Recycling bins are needed in these locations. They may also be used by passing crowds as they exit the event.
    • Tailgaters will carry trash and recyclables to disposal areas when they finish their picnics. Signs indicating locations and what to separate for recycling should help tailgaters find disposal areas among parked cars. Provide receptacles for hot coals and ash to separate them from flammable trash.
    • Spectators on lawn seats carry trash and recyclables to bins and may wait to do so until they head for the exits. Traffic patterns for exiting fans will determine needed locations for recycling bins. If the crowd brings carry-ins, expect a mix of plastic, aluminum and glass.
    • Skybox recycling bins near food and beverage serving areas are effective.
    • Remember that people are more likely to recycle correctly if there are trash barrels right next to every recycling bin.
  • Don�t forget to provide recycling for players and employees.
    • If sports drinks and water are provided in bottles, a large component of the refuse in player areas is recyclable. Provide recycling bins where the drinks are consumed.
    • To reduce cup waste, consider replacing water coolers with drinking fountains. Or give each player a reusable cup.
    • Clear signs and logical placement of bins help visiting teams make sense of the recycling program.
    • Office areas require the typical office recycling programs � with collection of mixed paper as well as cans and bottles. Convenience and clarity are important in these areas too.
    • Players and coaches may identify ways to reduce waste while away - traveling for away games poses special challenges as disposable items may be more readily available on the road. A soccer player noted that a lot of restaurant food went to waste when the team had a meal before a game, as players were reluctant to fill up. Just bringing the players attention to this helped them put more thought into their choices.

Choose effective supplies and methods.

  • Choose bins that foster recycling participation and easy operations.
    • The Considering Containers section of this guide will help you make the right decision for your circumstances.
  • Make a maintenance plan that works efficiently for crew members and limits problems.
  • Promote recycling to encourage participation and highlight the accomplishments.

Plan for Prompt Trouble-shooting.

  • Appoint a recycling monitor who can identify and remedy problems quickly.
    • Assign the job to someone who won�t be drawn away by other demands.
  • Authorize others to assist in trouble-shooting.
    • Grounds crew members may be the first to spot problems and can solve them if trained and directed to do so.
  • Know how to solve common problems.
    • Most recycling problems can be solved by changing the positions of bins.
    • Learn more with the Trouble-shooting Tips provided in this guide � and share the tips with anyone in a position to help.

Evaluate and Refine Recycling and Waste Reduction

Ask participants for feedback.

  • Check in with vendors and crew members to hear their perspectives on the way the program works.
    • Get constructive comments by asking the question, �Got any advice?�

Ask some visitors to give reactions.

  • Find out if the system is logical, the signs are clear, and their roles are convenient.
    • Use the feedback to refine the program and to document it.
  • Keep a record of visitor testimonials.
    • Share appreciative comments with sponsors and partners.

Get numbers.

  • Record the weights and volumes of recyclables and trash. Estimate the volume of waste that was avoided by using less in the first place and choosing durable, reusable materials.
    • Use the calculators in this guide to help you crunch the numbers.
  • Keep track of costs and savings.
    • Some recycling services pay for materials at times when high prices are paid for the commodities.
    • Account for the savings in trash hauling and disposal costs. The calculators in this guide can help.

Make a Report.

  • An explanation of what was accomplished can help guide future plans and document the successes.
    • Plug your information into the Report Maker provided in this guide and edit it to suit your needs.

Publicize Accomplishments.

  • Congratulate those who were involved and thank them for doing their part.
  • Get some recognition for a job well done
    • News about the effort�s success encourages site users to continue to participate in the future.
    • Use the Sample Press Releases located in this guide.

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