Game day garbage: Reducing food and plastic waste
Bioplastics are making composting a reality for major sports venues
April 20, 2018
All around the world, sports fans flock to stadiums, arenas and ballparks to cheer for their favorite teams. With many of these fans consuming food and drinks during events, an enormous amount of waste is generated by the sports industry each year. In the U.S. alone, major league baseball fans create more than 1,000 tons of waste every season—and until recently, all but a tiny percentage has made its way into landfills.
That is changing, thanks to Cargill’s bioplastics joint venture NatureWorks, the world’s largest producer of polylactic acid polymer, called Ingeo™️ PLA. The company is enabling more sports waste to be diverted away from landfills.
NatureWorks grew out of a Cargill research and development project in the 1990s. The team came up with a low-carbon-footprint resin, made by fermenting sugar into lactic acid and forming it into hard pellets, which are then sold to manufacturers. The pellets can be used in a variety of products normally made from plastics or fibers, including diapers, coffee capsules, 3D printing filament, cell phone cases, and foodservice packaging. Marketed under the brand name Ingeo™️, some of these products can be designed to be 100% compostable.
At Target Field, home to the Minnesota Twins baseball team, located in Minneapolis just 13 miles from Cargill headquarters, the team has partnered with Eco-Products, a foodservice manufacturer, to provide cups, plates, trays, and eating utensils made from Ingeo materials—all of which can make it easier to collect food waste to be sent to compost.
Bottles and cans have long been recycled at the ballpark, but by composting Ingeo-based products more commonly made from oil-based plastics, the Twins have increased the amount of waste diverted from landfills to 90 percent.
All around the world, more teams are taking on the challenge of increasing the sustainability of their game-day operations. Some venues are converting waste into compost, used as mulch on fields and green spaces.
“Over the past several years, a number of sports teams with recycling and composting rates around 10 percent have dramatically increased their rates to 80 percent or more,” said Scott Jenkins, chairman of the Green Sports Alliance, a non-profit organization dedicated to helping enhance the environmental performance of sports teams, venues and leagues.
As stadiums expand their use of Ingeo-based goods to reduce landfill waste, NatureWorks is looking to help other industries, like the restaurant sector, minimize their carbon footprints, increase organics diversion and to help make all food service ware more environmentally sustainable.
That’s a goal everyone can cheer for.