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2009 Success Story: University of Colorado

Facts at a Glance

poster depicting a football gridiron equating 5 yards gained for every 705 pounds of recycled material

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Program Overview

The University of Colorado was one of the standouts from EPA Game Day Recycling Challenge 2009, winning three of the five award categories, and achieving a remarkable 78% diversion rate (percent of waste diverted from landfills by reducing, recycling, and composting) for the event. Colorado’s success serves as an excellent example of what can be achieved by recycling at athletic events.

The CU Recycling program, started in 1976, is one of the oldest of its kind in the country. The CU recycling staff has been collecting recycling at football games since 1994. CU kicked off their zero waste initiative for football games in 2008 with a program they called “Ralphie’s Green Stampede,” Exit EPA. CU’s Folsom Field became the first sports stadium in the country to attempt a truly zero waste collection process by eliminating trash cans and collecting waste at sorting stations for recycling and composting. For the 2010 season, CU Recycling has set a goal of recycling or composting 90% of the waste generated at Folsom Field.1

Volunteers, who inspected and removed any non-compostable items from compostable bags of pre-and post-consumer food and food service packaging, staffed sorting station. The volunteers advised patrons on the proper recycling and sorting procedures. Sorting stations utilized highly visible signage to ensure that fans could easily locate places to dispose of waste, even with fewer receptacles.

ROTC members were trained for separating compostable and recyclables when cleaning up the stadium as part of their volunteer efforts. On game day, press box announcements and scoreboard graphics, along with support from “Chip” the mascot helped reinforce fan participation. As a result of these efforts, CU has achieved a very high diversion rate with no increase in stadium cleanup costs.

One of the key factors in CU’s success was their competitive bidding process for a multi-year, exclusive concessions contract for athletic facilities, making environmental concerns a key selection criterion. Now, more than 90% of all food concessions are packaged in recyclable or compostable packaging, and all fryer grease is recovered for biodiesel refining for CU’s recycling trucks. CU held employee sustainability and recycling training among vendors, security, custodians, and athletic department employees.

As a result of the new concessions contract, CU is able to convert nearly all public food and beverage services in Folsom Field to recyclable or compostable materials and containers. Nearly all packaging within the stadium is also recyclable or compostable. Compostable materials are collected in biodegradable bags.

Strong leadership from CU Recycling Coordinator Jack DeBell, and active involvement and initiative from the CU Student Government, which passed a zero waste resolution, have allowed the University of Colorado to be ahead of the game in athletic event recycling.

Results from 2009 Game Day Challenge
Category 2009 Result
Diversion Rate (%) 78.02%
Per Capita Waste Generation (lbs/person) 0.29
Gross GHG Reductions (MTCO2E) 23.6
Per Capita Recycling (lbs/person) 0.228
Per Capita Composting (lbs/person) 0.109

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