More than 100 students took part in this year's Zero-Waste Challenge, collecting more than 3.8 tons of recycling and more than 800 pounds of compostable materials. (Photo: Ryan Dotson)
More than 100 students took part in this year's Zero-Waste Challenge, collecting more than 3.8 tons of recycling and more than 800 pounds of compostable materials. (Photo: Ryan Dotson)

UA Scores 'Most-Improved' Win in Zero-Waste Challenge

A campuswide sustainability effort diverted more than 45 percent of waste from landfills during the Wildcats' "Zero-Waste" football game, more than doubling the UA's amount of waste diversion in 2017.
Feb. 6, 2019

The University of Arizona tallied two big victories on Oct. 6, 2018. While the UA football team scored a 24-17 win over the University of California, hundreds of environmentally minded Wildcats joined forces to keep as much game-related waste out of landfills as possible.

The result? The UA brought home the "most-improved" prize in the 2018-2019 Zero-Waste Challenge.

This campuswide effort involving the Office of Sustainability, Greening the Game, Students for Sustainability, Compost Cats, Facilities Management, Arizona Athletics, the UA Student Unions, the Zona Zoo, the Associated Students of the UA, Coca Cola and other groups sought to bring the amount of waste generated at Arizona Stadium as close to zero as possible.

"This is such a tremendous honor, and it speaks to what we can achieve with sustained planning, preparation, education and collaboration," said Trevor Ledbetter, director of the Office of Sustainability. "This effort would not have been possible without our amazing and dedicated student groups."

Each Pac-12 institution participates in the Zero-Waste Competition with the goal of determining which university diverted the most waste from the landfill at select football and basketball games, as well as which used the most innovative methods to expand reach and impact of sustainability education efforts. In its fourth year of zero-waste participation, the UA achieved a 45.71 percent diversion rate, more than doubling its 20 percent waste diversion in 2017. These efforts resulted in more than 3.8 tons of recycling and more than 800 pounds of compostable materials.

More than 100 students took part in the comprehensive clean-up effort.

Jill Burris, a project manager with UA Facilities Management and coordinator of the UA's Greening the Game project, credits the significant improvement to coordination and collaboration.

"We started by increasing our pregame tailgating outreach and information, as well as improving our in-game collection via dozens of integrated waste stations throughout the stadium," Burris said. "Also, through working with various stakeholders to participate with the postgame cleanup process, the UA was able to ensure that more material ended up in the correct waste systems."

Burris added that the success of the Oct. 6 zero-waste effort will go a long way toward informing how the UA handles waste management at future events.

"We learned a great deal about areas where we can optimize collection and engagement, and we formed much more productive relationships with a variety of departments, particularly with Arizona Athletics, all of which will foster greater success in future zero-waste efforts," Burris said.

The UA will be among the honorees at the Pac-12 Sustainability Conference, which takes place June 25-26 at the University of Washington.