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Waste Not
Super Bowl LII Hits Ambitious Waste Diversion Target to Become Zero-Waste Event

Earlier this year, the NFL, PepsiCo, Aramark, U.S. Bank Stadium, SMG and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority announced an ambitious plan to make Super Bowl LII a zero-waste event. The results are finally in and it’s official — the effort was a major win. Ninety-one percent of all trash generated on game day from 67,612 fans was responsibly recovered through composting, recycling and reuse. This marks the highest diversion rate achieved at U.S. Bank Stadium and at any previous Super Bowl, and aims to serve as the benchmark for future large-scale events.

Nearly 63 of the 69 tons of game day waste were recovered through recycling or donation for reuse (62 percent) and composting (29 percent). Not only did these efforts significantly reduce disposal costs, but also lessened the event’s environmental impact by diverting waste from landfill and avoiding the associated greenhouse gases.

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“The zero-waste legacy project is a testament to teamwork, with multiple partners coming together to achieve an ambitious environmental goal,” said Jack Groh, Director of the NFL’s Environmental Program. “The NFL is proud that this program was not only successful at Super Bowl LII, but will also serve as a permanent installation at the stadium and leave a lasting impact on the community.”

Just one year ago, U.S. Bank Stadium had a waste diversion rate of 20 percent. Over the course of one season, the Stadium and its partners were able to achieve a 71 percent increase in waste recovery through behavior change campaigns and increased recycling and composting infrastructure. Working with Recycle Across America, U.S. Bank Stadium installed three-bin stations with illustrated signs to show fans exactly how to sort items. Recycling and compost bins were made larger and more accessible, while trash bins were made much smaller, encouraging fans to make the right choices for disposing items.

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In addition, a comprehensive LEED-certification level waste audit was performed in October 2017 to identify specific materials for recovery in the stadium waste stream. A “zero-waste trial run” was performed at a December 2017 Minnesota Vikings home game to encourage fans to properly dispose of waste and to refine game-day practices for Super Bowl LII.

Ahead of game day, PepsiCo launched the Rush2Recycle campaign to show fans how to make recycling fun and easy in the stadium and at in-home Super Bowl parties across the country. Fans attending the Super Bowl were greeted by a team of zero-waste ambassadors who helped identify the correct bins for recycling, composting and waste-to-energy. Super Bowl XL MVP and Pittsburgh Steelers Legend Hines Ward helped fans recycle with his own end zone dance, the Rush2Recycle shuffle, as well as tips and resources.

“To tackle waste and boost recycling rates, each of us needs to do our part,” said Roberta Barbieri, VP of Global Environmental Sustainability at PepsiCo. “While we’re working to make PepsiCo’s packaging increasingly sustainable and investing in recycling programs in communities around the world, we also want to find new ways to make it fun and simple for customers to participate — like Rush2Recycle.”

Removing items from stadium inventory that could not be recycled or composted was also critical to the initiative’s success. Aramark, the food and beverage partner for U.S. Bank Stadium, replaced almost its entire inventory of food vessels, service products and utensils handed to fans with compostable alternatives.

“The successful implementation and results of this historic waste reduction project reflected the partners’ collective commitment to delivering innovative sustainable solutions that will endure beyond Super Bowl LII,” said Carl Mittleman, President of Sports and Entertainment for Aramark. “Aramark is incredibly proud to have contributed to this milestone and we look forward to utilizing our insights from this effort to further reduce the environmental impact of our operations at U.S. Bank Stadium and across all the venues we serve.”

Post-game steps to achieve the 91 percent resource recovery rate at Super Bowl LII were led by SMG and the NFL. The SMG team sorted all fan-generated waste into the correct waste compactors. The waste hauling partners then collected and provided weight-tickets at each destination, including the recycling facility, the composting facility and the waste-to-energy facility. This data was received by SMG and combined with the reuse and donation data collected by the NFL from their community partners. When the recycling, composting and donation/reuse data is combined, the total resource recovery rate for Super Bowl LII waste is 91 percent.


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