As fans and students filter into Ohio Stadium this Saturday, some will be surprised by the complete lack of trashcans.
While recycling has been in place in the ‘Shoe since 2007, this is the first season for the Zero Waste program. The new program focuses on sorting waste into two categories: recycling and compost. While having zero waste from the stadium is nearly impossible, this sorting method and the initiative strives to divert 90 percent of the stadium’s waste away from the landfill.
Corey Hawkey, Ohio State’s program coordinator for energy and sustainability, said the first two games have shown an increase in the waste diverted from last season.
“The first game we did 76.3 percent. We had 4.1 tons of trash and 13.1 tons of recycling,” Hawkey said. “For the Toledo game we did 63.7 percent, with 4.8 tons of trash and 8.4 tons of recycling. Both of those games are significantly better than we did last year.”
Four tons of trash would weigh the same as an adult male African elephant, according to the World Wildlife Fund’s website.
Last season, the ‘Shoe diverted about 50 percent of its waste through recycling alone. Because of complications with the compost efforts, this season’s numbers are also from only recycling.
Hawkey describes compost as materials, such as food or fiber-based products, that will decompose and add nutrients to the soil.
“What we’ve been struggling with is keeping plastics out of the compost,” Hawkey said. “The thing about compost is it has to be perfect, and as you can imagine, with a stadium with 105,000 people in it, it can be difficult to get something exactly perfect. You’re looking at 100 percent participation rate and that can be difficult.”
Becky Hanna. a third-year in health sciences, said that she attended the football games this year, but did not notice the compost-for-trashcan switch.
“I did notice recycling and Zero Waste signs,” Hanna said. “It was convenient because they were located by food stands.”
Hawkey said through the use of both compost and recycling, 90 percent diversion is possible and that Aggie Stadium of University of California,
Davis has achieved it. Kathy Smith, facilities coordinator at Aggie Stadium, which holds only about 10,800 people, confirmed this and shared the Aggies’ secret.
“The big secret for us was that our concession stand sells everything in compostable packaging,” Smith said. “We only sell two types of candy because most candies don’t come in a compostable package. We’re successful because our concession stand only sells things that are recyclable.”
For OSU that means working with Sodexo, the main food vendor inside the ‘Shoe. Danny Phillips, Sodexo’s general manager at OSU, said his company is already making strides to help cut waste.
“We changed a lot of packaging and we did a lot of training. There’s no trash containers — there’s a recycle and there’s a compost,” Phillips said. “We tried to make the message as simple as possible for the staff as well as the 105,000 (people) that are there. If it looks like food or paper, it can
Phillips also said Sodexo has absorbed all extra cost generated by the switch to compostable packaging. Zero Waste has also received funds from the President’s Provost Council on Sustainability, the Department of Athletics and the energy and sustainability department.
Hawkey said the initiative received a $50,000 grant from the President’s Provost Council on Sustainability. This money goes toward covering the cost of new signs to inform fans about the project, new waste infrastructure for the suites and Huntington Club area and workers to stand by each recycling and compost container to help fans know where to put their waste.
Hawkey said OSU used Ohio companies for the new infrastructure. He also said workers for the recycle and compost bins are provided by Proteam Solutions, a company that focuses on strategic staffing and management and technology solutions.
Proteam Solutions partners with nonprofit youth programs including Community for New Directions, Youth to Youth and Lead the Way to find 15- to 17-year-olds to help with time management and leadership skills, according to Wendy Taylor, the company’s client solutions manager.
“It’s a good opportunity to expose them (the youths) to the university,” Taylor said. “And in addition to educating the fans, they’re also becoming educated on the whole recycling/sustainability efforts.”
Hawkey said while these workers are necessary now, he hopes the positions will be taken over by volunteers from around the campus, such as clubs or Greek life.
“The past few weeks we have struggled to find groups that want to assist,” Hawkey said. “We’re ready for the campus community to help us and volunteer their time, because in the future we hope to move to a volunteer-based program.”
These volunteers would help in the main efforts at the ‘Shoe, but Hawkey said Zero Waste is starting to spread across campus. He listed examples including the pulping of food and fiber waste in the Ohio Union, similar practices in Kennedy Commons, and a focus on compost and recycling within the Blackwell Inn.
Since the Zero Waste program started targeting the Blackwell, they’ve achieved a 75-85 percent diversion, Hawkey said.
With the program already starting to spread across campus, Hawkey is confident that though it will take time, Ohio Stadium can achieve the Zero Waste goal of a 90 percent diversion.
“This is a long-term commitment, and we’re ready to stand by it,” Hawkey said. “This is something that we will accomplish.”