By Jack DeBell, University of Colorado Recycling Services
Early results are in on “Ralphies Green Stampede," CU's ambitious effort to recycle, eliminate waste and cut carbon emissions. After three home football games, the effort is well on its way to reaching its goal to be the first major sports stadium to remove public trash cans with a zero waste approach.
The Texas game for instance not only saw a decrease in waste generated, over 80 percent of consumed materials were either recycled or composted. Other environmental initiatives included a new valet bike parking service and CU’s investment in local carbon offsets for the energy used in the stadium and for the teams’ travel.
Some of the detailed accomplishments include the enormous amounts of materials recovered for recycling or composting by removing public trash cans within the stadium. Almost three tons of plastic bottles, plastic cups, and aluminum cans were collected from within the stadium during the sold-out Texas game. An additional three tons of food and food service packaging was composted. Importantly, upstream efforts to reduce waste generated less material than the average home game last season.
CU’s private concession vendor, Centerplate Inc. has converted nearly all food and beverage containers in Folsom to recyclable or compostable materials. Boulder-based Eco-Products Inc. is furnishing the compostable servingware. This effort to “design for diversion” has been a major success so far. While there are still “rougue materials” like candy wrappers, almost all packaging within the stadium is now recoverable.
Momentum remains strong to reach and even surpass the goals in the remaining three home games. Fans are encouraged to step-up their involvement at this week’s game with Kansas State.
Recyclables and compostables are being collected at 25 attended locations inside the stadium. Volunteers are monitoring the stations and advising patrons how to participate properly.
After the game, ROTC units are assisting by separating all materials during stadium cleanup. Barrels and bags are sorted at CU’s Intermediate Processing Facility (IPF) next to the Stadium.
Recyclables are picked up by Eco-Cycle, one of the country’s largest non-profit recyclers and an international leader in zero waste. Recyclables are further processed at Boulder County’s publically-funded recycling facility and then shipped to recycling mills.
Compostable food, paper, and bioplastics are collected in a specialized compaction truck purchased by CU’s student government (UCSU) and delivered to Western Disposal’s permitted composting facility in Boulder. This “industrial-strength” composting process enables food, meat and bones, soiled paper napkins, paper cups, compostable packaging, paper towels from bathrooms, and even the droppings from Ralphie the Buffalo to be converted to beneficial use instead of generating methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Finished compost will be returned to CU as a valuable soil amendment.
Ralphie’s Green Stampede, with White Wave Foods as a primary sponsor, is a bold step forward in national zero waste efforts. Zero waste is no longer an idealistic vision but a practical cornerstone of sustainability. Newsweek for instance, recently listed zero waste at the top of its list of 10 fixes for the planet. CU first envisioned a waste free campus in its 2006 Blueprint for a Green Campus. Since then, CU’s waste has decreased, despite record-levels of enrollment and new construction. This saves disposal costs, earns revenues from robust recycling markets, and employs students who make a difference with their degree.
For more information, click here to visit Ralphie's Green Stampede.