Zero Waste initiative recognized for Outstanding Collaboration and Partnership

Date Published: 
Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Zero Waste volunteer pictured by recycle container

Clearwater, Florida – UNC Charlotte’s Zero Waste initiative, a program designed to make Jerry Richardson Stadium a facility that ideally produces no landfill waste, received the National Association of College Auxiliary Services (NACAS) Southern region Outstanding Collaboration and Partnership Award. The award presented at the association’s annual conference, recognizes “unique, innovative or distinctive partnership that benefits the University and the community.”

The Zero Waste Initiative first began as a student effort. All waste from concessions and food products was to be either compostable or recyclable. The objective was quickly embraced by UNC Charlotte Facilities Management/Recycling and gathered steam as more departments joined in support. UNC Charlotte Auxiliary Services, Student Activity Center and Venue Management, and Chartwells, the University’s food service partner, were among the early adopters to commit time, effort and resources toward achieving the goal of a Zero Waste stadium.

An unusual amount of collaboration and cooperation was required from disparate groups: administrators, event facilities operations, athletics, student organizations, dining services, nationally franchised restaurant brands, contracted event staff, and a host of community groups. Getting buy-in that broad is unwieldy at best, but the Zero Waste Initiative attracted wholehearted participation from all stakeholders.

The goals:

  • minimize waste sent to landfills and wastewater systems by diverting biodegradable waste to composting or other landfill deferred systems whenever possible, and
  • maximize recycling efforts with on- and off-campus partners.

This was done through:

  • Alternative packaging, even within national brands, sourced through collaboration with suppliers. Only packaging that was compostable, recyclable or 100% post-consumer was used.* Support and cooperation from companies like Coca-Cola, Bojangle’s, Papa John’s, Below Zero (a third-party specialty food cart contractor) and Georgia Pacific were crucial to the success of this initiative.
  • Minimizing packaging overall. Established business practices were adapted to meet the needs of a Zero Waste football stadium.
  • Adjusting the packaging to eliminate recycling needs and bolster the compostable portion. Alternative supplier products were selected to cut down the amount of non-recyclable and non-compostable items used in the kitchen areas.

Specific positive environmental impact results:

  • Waste for the season was approximately 25 tons but only 17.4% of that was sent to a landfill. The rest, averaging ~82% of waste collected over six games, was sent to recycling (6.92 tons) or diverted to compost (12.99 tons).
  • Overall, 19.91 tons of stadium waste was diverted.
  • All of the approximately 286 gallons of fryer oil used was diverted into a bio-fuel program (Greenlight BioFuels) located less than 30 miles from the venue.

Tangible business benefits

  • Paper cost directly related to the food service program was ultimately reduced.
  • Generated waste was sharply reduced and hauling fees were lower than originally expected.

The NACUS 2014 Regional Outstanding Collaboration and Partnership Award honors the extensive, campus-wide, cross-departmental cooperation with business partners and vendors that resulted in positive, visible, measurable and repeatable success of the Zero Waste initiative.

Green Zone volunteers at Jerry Richardson stadium


Bags of fully compostable waste

Contacts for additional information:

  • Brad Green, Director of Catering and Special Services, Chartwells Higher Ed, UNC Charlotte |  704-687-0698 |
  • Kathy Boutin-Pasterz, Facilities Management – Recycling | 704-687-0604 |
  • Keith Wassum | Associate Vice Chancellor for Business Services | 704-687-5747 |