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by Allie Nicodemo
August 12, 2014
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The flip side of food

Corey Hawkey was faced with a daunting task. He needed to find a way for The Ohio State University football stadium, which is graced by 105,000 people at each game, to be more sustainable. While fans were busy watching the action on the field, he was focused on something else – their trash.

Humans produce an unprecedented amount of waste. The average person generates 4.3 pounds per day, and it adds up—55% of the 220 million tons of waste generated in the U.S. each day is sent to a landfill.

Much of that waste is food. In January 2012, a waste audit reveled that 40 percent of the materials in Arizona State University’s waste stream was organic. Another huge source of waste comes not from the food itself, but food service products, such as plates and napkins. That’s where Hawkey saw room for reform at the Ohio stadium.

“We implemented a program that basically said if it was food or fiber, it was compost. Anything else was recyclable,” Hawkey says.

By introducing compostable food service items, the stadium was able to successfully divert more that 90 percent of its waste from the landfill. Now, Hawkey is hoping to work with vendors at Sun Devil Stadium to bring that same success to ASU, which has committed to Zero Waste by 2015.

“It’s a little bit of a difficult challenge for us, because we are asking them to change when they already are big and profitable,” says Nick Brown, director of University Sustainability Practices at ASU. Brown is working with Hawkey to meet the Zero Waste goal at a university that manages 18.1 million GSF (gross square feet) of space. He says in order to make the switch to compostable packaging a reality, the ASU community will likely have to demand it.

Learn more about the food system in Room to grow: agriculture in urban spaces