When the Game Ends, the Trash Begins

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The following is an op-ed piece by Wes Muir, director of communications for Waste Management. It does not describe the views or opinions of Earth911.

The 2011 Ironman Texas implemented an extensive waste minimization and diversion program throughout the event stages.

Picture yourself at a baseball game or a fundraising walk for a charity. Now picture yourself at those events after all the crowds have come and gone—empty water bottles piled up in trash bins, leftover food scraps stacked on top, along with flyers and itineraries from the days’ event.

The waste generated at just one of these events can be as much as a small community generates over a short period of time. While it’s easier to use our recycling programs where we live and work, it’s not always clear how we can continue to recycle while we are out and about.

As an employee at Waste Management, I think a lot about this problem. Over the years and as part of many sponsorships, WM has learned some useful tactics and technology for making events more eco-friendly and economically responsible through waste management.

For example, we began following the “Sustainable Events Management System” to help event organizers reduce operating costs in addition to reducing carbon emissions. It turns out “going green” is actually more efficient and economical at large events.

When WM launched the Waste Management Phoenix Open (WMPO) in 2010, we pledged the event would be the “Greenest Show on Grass.” Working with the Phoenix Thunderbirds, we observed operations and identified, measured, and assessed environmental impacts to establish a baseline. Since then, we’ve made several changes to improve the sustainability of the tournament.

We were able to apply some of those key learnings to our sponsorship of the Ironman Texas race, using recycling kiosks and bins at the event course, transition areas, finish line, athlete villages and spectator areas. Thanks to the sustainability efforts of race attendees, nearly 12 tons of waste was recycled, and with the cooperation and support of the local Marriott staff, 100 percent of food waste was recovered or donated to Nature’s Way.

What’s more, we increased education and incentives for recycling amongst athletes, vendors and the host community—all of which were key in making the Texas Ironman a success. And hopefully, these recycling habits and knowledge carry over into recycling programs at home and at work. The bottom line for these sustainability initiatives is reduced and improved operating costs and stronger relations with the host community.

Throughout the years of our sponsorship of these sporting events, we anticipate significant changes and improvements in our pursuit to reduce the environmental impacts and at the same time, improve the quality of life for the surrounding community and its overall economy.

So, whether you’re competing in a charity fun run or attending your favorite sporting team’s game, look out for ways to recycle or for opportunities to bring new recycling methods to the playing field.

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