Zero Waste Super Bowl?

Photo by Tony Webster/(CC BY-NC 2.0)

Article by Monishaa Suresh


Today marks one of the biggest sporting events in the country, the 52nd Super Bowl. Given the sheer size of the stadium and the amount of people involved with putting on the event, it is predicted that the event will result in over 40 tons of waste by the end of the game.[1] This year, the NFL has partnered with PepsiCo, Aramark and U.S. Bank Stadium in Minneapolis with a new initiative, Rush2Recycle, and they have pledged to sustainably and responsibly dispose of 90% the stadium’s waste.

Apart from the regular recycling of cans and bottles, the NFL and its partners have devised a plan for “repurposing items like discarded handbags, signage and construction materials through local community organizations.”[2] Students from local universities and other event staff are scheduled to direct all spectators and those at the event to properly dispose of their waste in respective receptacles. To further decrease what ends up in landfills, non-compostable or non-recyclable waste will be incinerated to heat local homes and businesses with the recoverable energy.[3]

The stadium itself also was engineered and built with sustainability in mind. While it was difficult to design an environmentally friendly stadium in an area with such cold weather, the HKS architecture firm made the best of the situation to create an energy-efficient stadium. The building has low-flow plumbing technology in toilets and showers, reducing water usage by 5.67 million gallons annually. Furthermore, the building has an efficient landscape irrigation system that uses less water for plants around the stadium. Also, the Minnesota Stadium is the first of its kind in the country to use complete lED sports lighting, cutting electricity costs by 37% and ETFE material for its roof which optimizes natural daylight and solar heating. A major point for the environment is the stadium’s smaller carbon footprint since the snowmelt at the stadium is directed through the “storm water control system” resulting in 2000 tons less of structural steel.[4]

The stadium seats over 66000 people and besides spectators the people present include event staff, chefs, etc. With the sheer number of people involved, if the responsible waste management plan is a success, it can set a precedent for football games and sporting events everywhere. Furthermore, all sustainable measures put in place will stay in place at the Minnesota stadium past the Super Bowl. Hopefully, while the game will make an impact on minds of football fans, it won’t leave one on the environment.




[1] Bieler, Des “The Super Bowl of recycling? NFL aims to keep over 40 tons of waste out of landfills.” The Washington Post (January 31, 2018)

[2] “NFL, Pepsico and U.S. Bank Stadium partners including Aramark, SMG and the Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority team up to score first zero waste legacy project at Super Bowl LII” (January 22, 2018)

[3] Alfonseca, Kiara “Super Bowl LII brings sustainability in sports with a zero-waste initiative” NBC News (February 3, 2018)

[4] Matisos, Michelle R. “Minneapolis’ Super Bowl LII stadium sports innovative sustainable design” Multibriefs: Exclusive (February 1, 2018)

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