Campus continues efforts to ensure a zero-waste Memorial Stadium

Tony Zhou/Staff
Pictured above is a concessions stand in progress of being completed on the concourse level of the new stadium. (Tony Zhou/Staff)

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Nearly a year after Cal Athletics first announced its 2020 zero-waste initiative last fall, the campus is moving forward on its plans to make the new Memorial Stadium a zero-waste facility.

Along with its corporate sponsor Recology, the Cal Recycling and Refuse Services and Cal Dining, Cal Athletics will ensure the new stadium achieves more sustainability each season by helping fans properly dispose of their waste, along with modifying their concessions and merchandise product packaging. Both Cal Athletics and Recycling and Refuse Services plan to provide bins and bring in student volunteers to help fans identify and sort compostables, recyclables and waste in time for the first game of the season.

“We will have volunteers doing what I call ‘fast talking’ — talking to (people) to help them get the waste product in the bins,” said Mike Huff, assistant director of Cal Athletics for Facilities Management. “The green (bag) is compostables. Recyclables go in clear (bags), and then landfill items go in black bags.”

Campus junior Patrick Smith, a Recycling and Refuse Services staff assistant and legislative assistant for Berkeley City Councilmember Gordon Wozniak, said the zero-waste initiative will also include working with Cal Dining — the campus dining program that will provide concessions for the stadium this year — in the multi-year process to reduce waste source production.

“Working with Cal Dining has allowed (Cal Recycling and Refuse Services) to start working on the source reduction like making the nacho boats compostable, making them hard paper instead of a plastic clamshell,” Smith said. “We can’t do everything they need right now, but over the next few years we will work toward minute points like completely compostable containers.”

According to Smith, the stadium’s sustainability plans align with the city and the campus’ joint decision last fall to achieve zero-waste in the Berkeley community by 2020.

Wozniak said Cal Athletics ran with the discussion of zero-waste by 2020 and immediately began adopting plans to make the stadium more sustainable during its renovation over the past year.

“It’s the university. It’s Cal Athletics and the chancellor,” Wozniak said. “We just went to them early on and said it would be nice to take them out on it and try to make (the stadium) as green as possible.”

Huff said the zero-waste initiative is also being made possible by Cal Athletics’ strong relationship and support from the stadium’s custodial company, which will prep the stadium pre-game and properly dispose of any litter left in the facility post-game.

Wozniak also said he hopes the initiative creates a “rivalry” with other schools to encourage them to make their stadiums more sustainable as well.

“I think it is really great,” he said. “I hope the Cal student body challenges Stanford to join in these efforts.”

Ashley Patterson, outreach and education coordinator for the University of Utah Office of Sustainability, also expressed her enthusiasm for Cal’s initiative and said Utah can now use both UC Berkeley and the University of Colorado at Boulder as examples of the zero-waste initiative.

“I would love to see us doing the same thing,” Patterson said. “We have used University of Colorado at Boulder as an example. I think they are on the path as well, so we need to catch up.”