Quantcast

Cutting Waste is Smart Business

Natural Resources Defense Council

by Alice Henly

Sports stadiums and arenas, like all large facilities, generate a lot of waste—typically thousands of tons of trash each year. Waste generation in the U.S., including all industrial wastes and municipal solid waste (MSW), totals more than 14 billion tons annually. Unfortunately, the production and management of all that waste directly contributes to global climate disruption as well as other serious environmental issues, including water pollution, air pollution and harming wildlife habitats.

Only 82 million tons (about 32 percent) of MSW were recycled in 2009, according to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s biennial report, yet this alone cut greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 178 million metric tons, the equivalent of removing 33 million passenger cars from the road for an entire year.

Despite many of the benefits of waste prevention, recycling and composting—protecting biodiversity, saving energy, water and valuable natural resources, and reducing use of landfills and incinerators, and GHG emissions—it’s an ongoing challenge to engage more businesses and people in smarter waste management, one which the Cleveland Indians are taking on in a big way.

Since its inaugural year in 1994, Progressive Field has boasted recycling receptacles for plastic, cardboard and aluminum. However, it wasn’t until late 2007, when the ballpark’s waste hauling contract expired, that the Cleveland Indians began to significantly expand their recycling facilities and establish the ballpark as an industry leader in waste management.

Starting in 2008, Brad Mohr, assistant director of ballpark operations for the Cleveland Indians, established new partnerships with local waste companies and arranged for the separation of the ballpark’s recyclables on site, instead of commingling.

To sort on site, the Indians bought two balers that create 1,200-pound cubes of cardboard and 500-pound ready-for-sale cubes of plastic or aluminum.

“Combining the money we saved from cancelled trash hauls—paying to have waste picked up from the ballpark and sorted—with the money we made from selling the sorted recycled commodities, we paid off the $30,000 cost of the two balers in six months,” Mohr explains. “That really got people’s attention and gave our environmental work real credibility. The senior staff ’s immediate response was ‘keep going!’”

In three years the Indians have cut their annual waste in half. In 2007, the ballpark generated 1261.6 tons of trash. By 2010 this was down to 613.4 tons. This reduced the number of trash compactor pickups—that cost an average of $500 each—by 64 percent from 254 pickups in 2007 to 92 in 2010, saving the company $50,000.

Mohr is confident that the Indians will continue to save $50,000 or more annually, relative to 2007 costs, with the ballpark’s improved waste management and recycling system. “That’s where we see the financial difference…in recycling, [and] avoiding trash being hauled away,” Mohr said. “Green initiatives are here to stay because they save teams money.”

The Indians’ improved ballpark recycling has also notably created more local jobs while reducing the ballpark’s environmental impact. After every game there is a ballpark “pick” where an average of 30 custodial staff do a sweep of the entire ballpark, picking up and sorting trash from recyclables. In order to increase the recycling rate at the ballpark, Mohr now employs more custodial staff, hiring about eight additional workers each game, to collect recyclables post-game.

The many benefits of the Indians’ improved waste management system—creating jobs, cutting pollution, reducing the ballpark’s environmental impact and saving money—is echoed in a new report by the Tellus Institute that was launched Nov. 15 at an event hosted by the Indians. The event took place at Progressive Field alongside a series of nationwide events.

The national report—More Jobs, Less Pollution—finds that reaching a 75 percent national recycling rate would create nearly 1.5 million more jobs than in 2008. It would also reduce conventional and toxic emissions that impact human and ecosystem health, strengthen the economy by creating a stable local employment base and reduce CO2 emissions by 276 million metric tons by 2030—equivalent to 72 coal-fired power plants or taking 50 million cars off the road.

More Jobs, Less Pollution was prepared for the BlueGreen Alliance, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Service Employees International Union, Recycling Works! And the Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives. It represents the united mission of labor and environmental groups to create a strengthened, more resilient American economy based on green jobs.

“Increasing our recycling rather than dumping trash in landfills will create nearly 1.5 million jobs that are sorely needed, and will benefit the environment,” said Jim Hoffa, Teamsters general president. “The Teamsters are interested in creating good, green jobs.”

The Indians’ impressive waste management work, among other green initiatives, provides a strong example for large businesses in Cleveland and statewide for moving towards a stronger green economy.

“The Indians have a wide breadth of activity and efforts in greening and sustainability thanks to the guidance and support of NRDC and NRDC’s unparalleled sports greening resources,” says Mohr. “Our comprehensive recycling program is just the beginning, as we’re also the first American League club to install solar power, and we are trying to add a new green feature each year.”

For more information, visit www.switchboard.nrdc.org/blogs/issues/green_enterprise.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Tuna auctions are a tourist spectacle in Tokyo. Outside the city's most famous fish market, long queues of visitors hoping for a glimpse of the action begin to form at 5 a.m. The attraction is so popular that last October the Tsukiji fish market, in operation since 1935, moved out from the city center to the district of Toyosu to cope with the crowds.

Read More Show Less

gmnicholas / E+ / Getty Images

By Nicole Greenfield

Kristan Porter grew up in a fishing family in the fishing community of Cutler, Maine, where he says all roads lead to one career path: fishing. (Porter's father was the family's lone exception. He suffered from terrible seasickness, and so became a carpenter.) The 49-year-old, who has been working on boats since he was a kid and fishing on his own since 1991, says that the recent warming of Maine's cool coastal waters has yielded unprecedented lobster landings.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
TeamDAF / Getty Images Plus

The climate crisis is getting costly. Some of the world's largest companies expect to take over one trillion in losses due to climate change. Insurers are increasingly jittery and the world's largest firm has warned that the cost of premiums may soon be unaffordable for most people. Historic flooding has wiped out farmers in the Midwest.

Read More Show Less
Aerial view of lava flows from the eruption of volcano Kilauea on Hawaii, May 2018. Frizi / iStock / Getty Images

Hawaii's Kilauea volcano could be gearing up for an eruption after a pond of water was discovered inside its summit crater for the first time in recorded history, according to the AP.

Read More Show Less
The Eqip Sermia Glacier is seen behind a moraine left exposed by the glacier's retreat during unseasonably warm weather on Aug. 1 at Eqip Sermia, Greenland. Sean Gallup / Getty Images

Andrew Yang's assertion that people move away from the coast at the last Democratic debate is the completely rational and correct choice for NASA scientists in Greenland.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
hadynyah / E+ / Getty Images

By Johnny Wood

The Ganges is a lifeline for the people of India, spiritually and economically. On its journey from the Himalayas to the Bay of Bengal, it supports fishermen, farmers and an abundance of wildlife.

The river and its tributaries touch the lives of roughly 500 million people. But having flowed for millennia, today it is reaching its capacity for human and industrial waste, while simultaneously being drained for agriculture and municipal use.

Here are some of the challenges the river faces.

Read More Show Less

Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

By Jake Johnson

As a growing number of states move to pass laws that would criminalize pipeline protests and hit demonstrators with years in prison, an audio recording obtained by The Intercept showed a representative of a powerful oil and gas lobbying group bragging about the industry's success in crafting anti-protest legislation behind closed doors.


Speaking during a conference in Washington, DC in June, Derrick Morgan, senior vice president for federal and regulatory affairs at the American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM), touted "model legislation" that states across the nation have passed in recent months.

AFPM represents a number of major fossil fuel giants, including Chevron, Koch Industries and ExxonMobil.

"We've seen a lot of success at the state level, particularly starting with Oklahoma in 2017," said Morgan, citing Dakota Access Pipeline protests as the motivation behind the aggressive lobbying effort. "We're up to nine states that have passed laws that are substantially close to the model policy that you have in your packet."


The audio recording comes just months after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that would punish anti-pipeline demonstrators with up to 10 years in prison, a move environmentalists condemned as a flagrant attack on free expression.

"Big Oil is hijacking our legislative system," Dallas Goldtooth of the Indigenous Environmental Network said after the Texas Senate passed the bill in May.

As The Intercept's Lee Fang reported Monday, the model legislation Morgan cited in his remarks "has been introduced in various forms in 22 states and passed in ... Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota."

"The AFPM lobbyist also boasted that the template legislation has enjoyed bipartisan support," according to Fang. "In Louisiana, Democratic Gov. John Bel Edwards signed the version of the bill there, which is being challenged by the Center for Constitutional Rights. Even in Illinois, Morgan noted, 'We almost got that across the finish line in a very Democratic-dominated legislature.' The bill did not pass as it got pushed aside over time constraints at the end of the legislative session."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

DESIREE MARTIN / AFP / Getty Images

Wildfires raging on Gran Canaria, the second most populous of Spain's Canary Islands, have forced around 9,000 people to evacuate.

Read More Show Less