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Tackling the Super Bowl's Organic Waste Challenge: The Anaerobic Digestion Solution

6 min read

The players on the field in the Super Bowl will captivate worldwide audiences this weekend. What you might not see is the facilities team at Allegiant stadium working hard to productively manage all the organic waste that will be generated by the 65,000 fans in attendance. Arenas are leading the way in improving their organic waste management practices to reduce their carbon footprints.

In this blog post, we'll investigate the problem of organic waste in the Super Bowl and similar events. Additionally, we'll explore anaerobic digestion as a groundbreaking solution to address this issue and pave the way for a more sustainable future in the world of sports and live performances.

The Organic Waste Dilemma

Super Bowls and other major sports events are synonymous with lavish fan experiences, which inevitably lead to significant waste generation. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the average American generates around 4.4 pounds of waste per day. So the organic waste produced during live events, including food scraps, compostable utensils, and packaging, have historically contributed substantially to landfill volumes. Some figures to help paint the picture of game-day food waste include: 

  • An estimated 40 tons of organic waste is generated each year at the Super Bowl, including food waste, compostable materials, and other biodegradable items (Source: World Wildlife Fund).
  • Large sports events contribute to a substantial increase in overall waste production, with the Super Bowl alone producing approximately 30% more waste than a regular day in the host city (Source: EPA).
  • More than 63,000 kg (140,000 pounds) of food and beverages are produced for activities surrounding the Super Bowl, some of which will inevitably go uneaten, presenting an opportunity for potential recovery and distribution to support food aid initiatives in line with the new EPA Wasted Food Scale Solution recommendations. (Source: Forbes)

The Optimal Food Waste Solution

To tackle the issue of food waste at large events like the Super Bowl, a two-fold approach is being championed. First, there is a call for the recovery and donation of still-edible food items. Organizations are encouraged to collaborate with local charities and food banks to redirect surplus food to those in need.

In fact, the Super Bowl organization is already partnering with Food Recovery Network and collected around 2,000 pounds of food waste from the SoFi Stadium in California in 2022 and anticipated recovering 2,000 - 3,000 pounds of food from SoFi in 2023. 

Addressing post-consumer food waste is equally crucial. The EPA encourages the use of anaerobic digestion, a sustainable and eco-friendly process that transforms food waste into renewable resources for the host business. 

By incorporating these practices into the Super Bowl and other live events, we can not only make a positive impact on local communities by redistributing surplus food but also contribute to the broader environmental agenda by converting unavoidable food waste into a valuable source of renewable energy.

The Anaerobic Digestion Solution

Anaerobic digestion is a revolutionary solution to manage unavoidable organic waste at large sports events. This process involves the breakdown of organic materials in the absence of oxygen, producing biogas and nutrient-rich digestate as byproducts. Here's why anaerobic digestion is the ideal solution:

  • Methane Reduction: By diverting organic waste from landfills and channeling it into anaerobic digesters, we can significantly reduce methane emissions, which is a potent greenhouse gas 25 times more effective at trapping heat in the atmosphere than carbon dioxide. Anaerobic digestion captures methane produced during the decomposition process and  it into a valuable renewable energy source.
  • On-site Renewable Energy Generation: The biogas generated from anaerobic digestion can be utilized as a renewable energy source for electricity and heat production directly on-site at the arena. This not only reduces reliance on fossil fuels but also contributes to a more sustainable economy while building a circular solution story that can be used in marketing and PR for the sports event and stadium. 
  • Nutrient-Rich Biofertilizer: The nutrient-rich digestate produced as a byproduct of anaerobic digestion serves as an excellent organic fertilizer. This can be utilized in nearby community agriculture, closing the loop on the nutrient cycle and promoting soil health.
  • Waste Diversion: Anaerobic digestion allows for the efficient diversion of organic waste from landfills, minimizing the environmental impact associated with conventional waste disposal methods.

As we revel in the excitement of the Super Bowl and other grand sporting events, it's crucial to acknowledge and address the environmental challenges they pose. By adopting anaerobic digestion as a sustainable solution, we can not only mitigate the impact of organic waste but also contribute to a more environmentally conscious and resilient future. It's time to champion not just athletic prowess but also innovative approaches to waste management and to make every large-scale event an opportunity to showcase our commitment to a greener planet.

Learn more about how on-site anaerobic digestion can support arena and stadiums through our one-pager!

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