Arenas, stadiums, and convention centers are a key part of a strong local economy and help provide a strong tax base for local governments. These venues play host to up to tens of thousands of people per event from either the surrounding region or from other cities from around the country and the world. This high volume of people in one place at one time results in a high volume of waste and potential recyclable materials. Implementing an effective recycling plan at these venues can generate potential revenue from collected recyclables but, most importantly, a recycling plan can save the administering organization tens of thousands of dollars a year in disposal costs.
Most recycling programs in these venues are initiated by local officials or advocates. In rare cases venue managers will be the champion of a recycling program. Drafting and passing city-level recycling ordinances making it mandatory to recycle at arenas, stadiums, and convention centers helps make an effective recycling plan a priority for venue managers. Staying abreast of county, state, and federal level legislation is also important when implementing local-level ordinances and when educating venue managers about their legal obligation. Local officials, advocates and venue managers should also seek out partnerships with private corporations to implement successful plans. At Turner Field in Atlanta, the Braves have partnered with The Coca-Cola Company to install recycling bins throughout the stadium and hold recycled PET plastic shirt promotions.
There are many different ways of structuring the relationship between the venue and the city when establishing and carrying out a recycling plan. At Miller Park in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the stadium is privately owned and operated but the city oversees and manages the stadiums recycling program. Another model is used at Safeco Field in Seattle, Washington where the Mariners are responsible for implementing the recycling plan. Over the life of the program, the team has seen quantifiable economic benefits. At the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio, the venue’s recycling program has been initiated and carried out by the food service contractor, Aramark.
An effective large venue recycling plan will have many components and strategies. It is important to work closely with concessionaires and vendors since they will control a large amount of the venue’s waste. Make sure that they procure products that will fit in with the general plan’s recyclable materials guidelines and also that they are recycling their behind the counter waste. During the event, there are many strategies to encourage recycling among attendees. Setting up recycling bins in the parking lot and also handing out recycling bags to people as they enter the parking lot are effective ways of pre-event recycling. In the arena, it is always important to place recycling bins next to trash cans. Make sure that these bins are visible by placing them in high traffic areas and utilizing clear signage. Pass-the-Bag programs require venue staff to distribute recycling bags to attendees while they are in their seats and to encourage attendees to pass the bag along after they have discarded their recyclables in the bag. Recycling promotion and education can be carried out by posting signs on bins, putting up posters, inserting notices in event programs, and implementing point-of-sale messaging. Following the event, venue staff will need to pick up all of the waste and recyclable materials left in the facility. It is important that the recycling component of this pick up does not significantly increase clean-up costs.
Along with these strategies, there are also other components that are necessary in a convention center recycling plan. Contracts between the venue operating company and organization or companies that use the facility should specify recycling services, responsibilities. Contracts with both vendors and waste and recycling haulers should focus on recycling. Trash and recycling collection is usually contracted out to private companies but in some cases local governments take care of hauling. It is important to work with vendors in addressing behind-the-scenes recycling. Event attendees will have many opportunities to recycle but vendors and food service companies will be solely responsible for set-up and take-down recycling as well as clean-up recycling. Recycling bins are again an essential part of the general plan. There will potentially be a combination of both permanent bins and temporary bins considering that the use of convention center space will often be in flux.