Whatever happens in the Super Bowl — be it the Patriots winning their sixth title with Bill Belichick and Tom Brady or the Eagles bringing Philadelphia its first NFL championship since 1960 — the result will be long remembered. However, the NFL aims for the staging of the game itself, at U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis, to barely leave a trace.
The league is planning a “zero-waste” Super Bowl, which would keep over 40 tons of game-related materials from winding up in landfills near the stadium. The NFL, along with some corporate partners, is also running a “Rush2Recycle” campaign to encourage the 100 million or so Super Bowl viewers to do their part for the environment.
“For 25 years, the NFL has strived to reduce the environmental impact of its events and leave a positive green legacy in host communities,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a statement. “Through this project, the league and its partners hope to set a new standard of environmental sustainability at the Super Bowl.”
To that end, the NFL intends to recover over 90 percent of stadium waste at Super Bowl LII, set for Sunday, and not just the usual bottles and cans. In a recent news release, the league and its partners touted a plan to repurpose “items like discarded handbags, signage and construction materials through local community organizations,” while the stadium and its partners have installed “a tri-bin waste collection system” and invested in a dedicated organics compactor.
“This work will leave a lasting impact after the final whistle, as the stadium’s waste diversion infrastructure will be permanent installations at U.S. Bank Stadium, helping protect the environment and reduce waste hauling costs,” the news release stated.
Food-and-beverage service giant Aramark has created compostable items for the event, such as beer cups, trays, straws, utensils and containers for nacho-cheese sauce. “To date, we’ve converted 70-plus different products to compostable with more in the pipeline,” an Aramark spokesman told Environmental Leader.
A spokesman for the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority said in a statement that the Super Bowl effort “echoes the State of Minnesota’s commitment to reducing our carbon footprint and building an operation that is friendly to our environment.” U.S. Bank Stadium and its partners claim to have increased the facility’s diversion rate by 55 percent since June 2017.
According to Fast Company, officials with Rush2Recycle have recruited around 200 local students to join PepsiCo staffers in helping fans at the game put materials in the proper bins. “Some of the tactics we’re employing reflect tactics that are needed in the U.S. in general,” a PepsiCo executive told the website.
As for fans at Super Bowl parties, Rush2Recycle is encouraging them to “get competitive” by dividing into teams, each with its own recycling bag. “Losers [i.e., the team that recycles the least material] have to take out the trash,” the campaign suggests.
The NFL is also planning on donating thousands of pounds of unserved, prepared food for the Super Bowl and related events in Minneapolis to local shelters and community kitchens. An MSFA spokesman pointed out to Environmental Leader that while the zero-waste effort has required sizable financial investments, there are tax benefits and savings from reduced transportation costs, and those involved hope it serves as a model for other sports leagues and event planners.
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