Super Bowl LII Catalyzes Zero-Waste Legacy

This weekend, the U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis will attract over 66,000 people for the Super Bowl – not to mention the 100 million viewers who will be watching across the country. While much of the day’s focus will be on the players and the ads, this year’s organizers are also spotlighting another, greener aspect of the game: engaging fans throughout the evening to create the first ever zero-waste Super Bowl.

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America’s biggest sporting event generates tons of trash – this year’s organizers estimate the number will reach 40 tons. To curb the amount of waste destined for landfills, the NFL, along with half a dozen partners, including the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, Aramark and PepsiCo are teaming up to launch the Rush2Recycle campaign. Since June, the stadium has been modifying traditional arena elements by creating more intuitive recycling and composting bins and developing compostable food containers. Organizers acknowledge that while consumers want to be sustainable, they don’t always have the know-how to do so. To simplify the process, the Rush2Recycle program will be stewarded by 200 “Recycling Ambassadors” who will help fans correctly sort their trash. And fans watching at home can get in on the action – Rush2Recycle has created an online playbook to recycling and will share tips through a social media campaign featuring Pittsburgh Steelers legend Hines Ward. Although the NFL has been striving for greater sustainability since 1994, this year’s initiative marks a long-term commitment with the proper infrastructure to recover more than 90 percent of stadium waste. Jack Groh, the director of the NFL’s environmental program explains, “What differentiates it from anything we’ve done in the past is the commitment to not just doing this for one day, but to work together to change the paradigm.” After the Super Bowl, the partners will summarize best practices, providing “a set of procedures and concepts that we’ve tested at the single biggest sports event in the country.”

Although the Super Bowl is an annual occurrence, this year’s sustainability commitment will set the standard for other large-scale events aiming to decrease their environmental impact. By creating an engaging, surround sound approach that simplifies recycling for fans while generating a roadmap and key learnings for other event coordinators, the Rush2Recylce campaign has made sustainability replicable.