Arizona Diamondbacks, Cities Jump On 'Zero Waste' Bandwagon

May 05, 2014

(Photo by Tracy Greer - KJZZ)
Graham Rossini, a vice president with the Arizona Diamondbacks, discusses the organization's green initiatives.
(Photo by Tracy Greer - KJZZ)
The "Break A Bat, Plant A Tree" initiative is featured on the stadium video board. Each time a Diamondback opponent breaks a baseball bat, a tree will be planted.
(Photo by Tracy Greer - KJZZ)
The Diamondbacks are green behind the scenes as well. These recycling containers are in an employee break room in the executive offices.
(Photo by Tracy Greer - KJZZ)
One of the green features at Chase Field is the APS Solar Pavilion, a shaded area of the exterior plaza with solar panels on top.

Major league sports teams, businesses and cities are promoting “zero waste” programs across the country. The idea is to get rid landfills someday. But that won’t be easy.

Baseball fans filed into Chase Field at a recent home game in Phoenix. The Diamondbacks were hosting the Colorado Rockies and despite Arizona’s slow start this year, the fans are still pretty excited.

Behind the scenes, the Diamondbacks are watching how much stuff the fans are throwing away. The team has been doing some research and found out that during a well-attended game, crowds at Chase can produce up to ten tons of garbage. Multiply that by an 81 game home season and well, you get the idea.

Graham Rossini, a vice president with the Arizona Diamondbacks pointed out several of the initiatives the organization is taking to combat waste.

"We’re here at section 131 with a great view of the third base line and we’ve got one of our recycling units and containers right here with us,” Rossini said.   

There are about 275 of these containers in the stadium and they’re strategically located near food and drink stands. Rossini said the Diamondbacks hope fans will recycle their paper cups, fast food bags and plastic bottles.

"I would say our diversion we’ve got right now is probably less than 20 percent and we’ve got a lot of room to grow. There’s some low hanging fruit that we can accomplish and maybe move that to 30 to 40 to 50 percent in the near future,” Rossini said.

To move closer to the 100 percent goal, Rossini said the Diamondbacks are doing a lot to reduce waste. Instead of putting leftover food in landfills, concessionaires at Chase Field donate tons of it to local charities each year. He said the team also encourages vendors to limit their packaging materials; grass clippings from center field are used as mulch; and stadium workers wear golf shirts made from recycled plastic bottles. Even the game programs are printed with environmentally friendly soy ink on recycled paper. 

And it’s not just the Diamondbacks. They’re involved in the Green Sports Alliance, a group of pro and college teams that have agreed to reduce their carbon footprints and trash piles.

Sports teams aren't the only ones thinking about zero waste.

"It reduces greenhouse gasses and it can lead to jobs with the amount of effort you take to re-use these things” said Nicholas Gioello, assistant to the city manager of Sedona.  Sedona was the first community in Arizona to adopt a zero waste resolution in 2008. 

"It's the stewardship of your land, and maybe that's the best thing and certainly that's what Sedona has always been about," Gioello said.

But some environmentalists claim Sedona isn't doing enough to encourage recycling. In fact, the city doesn’t keep track of how much waste it produces.  

And, as for the big picture, other critics wonder if it’s even possible for the city to completely stop sending garbage to the landfill.

"I think the term 'zero waste' is sometimes misleading” said Lacey Raak, sustainability director at the University of California-Santa Cruz. She said zero waste is a misnomer because best case scenario really about 5 percent of garbage still goes to the dump after recycled materials are removed — and that’s a big if.

"It’s behavior change, right? It’s thinking about the habits and trying to change that and it’s hard. But, I think one of the first pieces is education and informing people about where their trash is actually going," Raak said.

Back at Chase Field, Diamondbacks fan Rachel Muhammad was surprised to learn that tons of waste will be hauled out of the stadium after the game.

“Well, it makes me feel sad because there’s ways we can eliminate some of that garbage, and use it for composting, putting it back and recycling programs, things that could help our Mother Earth," she said.

Muhammad is doing her part, she brought her own refillable water bottle and she doesn't plan to buy anything at the game that she might throw away. 

See all the stories in the Rubbish Series.