Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum meets zero-waste goal

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum officially accomplished its goal of producing zero waste last month. It is now the largest NFL stadium and the second largest college stadium in America to become a zero waste facility, second only to Ohio State University’s Ohio Stadium.

Despite having over 1.2 million stadium guests this season, the Coliseum diverted over 400,000 pounds of waste to be recycled, repurposed or composted, accounting for 90 percent of the Coliseum’s waste production. Since the remaining 10 percent of foreign objects are unable to decompose, 90 percent is the industry standard for “zero waste.”

The Coliseum uses a triple-source process to achieve the standard of zero waste. First, attendees sort materials into the service products placed throughout the Coliseum provided by Legends Hospitality. An on-site crew of 80 to 100 staff members sorts further. From the Coliseum, the Athens Services’ waste collection and recycling service facility further categorizes, then recycles, composes and repurposes these materials. These three levels create a set of safety nets, allowing for sorting mistakes and double-checking to ensure that the maximum amount of waste is sustainably disposed.

“Whether they know it or not, our fans are helping us with every decision that they make,” said Brian Grant, the Coliseum’s director of operations. “It’s entirely a team effort.”

Developing and implementing the Zero Waste Initiative provided considerable challenges to Coliseum coordinators. The Los Angeles Rams, who are tenanting the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum until their stadium in Inglewood is serviceable, received an average attendance of over 70,000 fans this season, according to data by ESPN. This created heavy workloads for Coliseum staff.

On the same weekends that Trojans games and Rams games were played, waste-disposal time frames were cut to as little as eight hours. On the other hand, the Coliseum has hosted two Olympiads, two Super Bowls and one World Series over the past 93 years.

“If we can get a stadium that’s almost 100 years old to zero waste, that’s a pretty huge challenge,” Grant said.

As of now, it is too soon to determine the effects of the program on the Coliseum. Partners such as EcoSafe and Athens Services have helped achieve this sustainability goal by providing products at reduced costs and cash assets.

Waxie, a Coliseum partner and California-based sanitary corporation, provided financial assistance and reduced-rate janitorial supplies. Grant hopes to prove that the costs of sustainable activity has potential to equate to the costs of contemporary waste systems.

“With the addition of recycling commodities, we can actually hopefully prove to the nation that these zero-waste programs can actually be cost-neutral,” Grant said. “If other stadiums look at the Coliseum, I hope they see a model that involves a stakeholder theory-driven program that focuses on using resources to make the best decisions possible. Anything is possible when you get the right, committed individuals into a room with a common goal.” 

Ultimately, the Coliseum plans to continue striving for progressive, sustainable action, and hopes to set an example for similar stadiums across the country. Athletic Director Lynn Swann hopes to continue implementing this system of waste management in the upcoming years, as well as supporting new efficient and creative projects that promote progressive and sustainable action.

“We’re proud to be a part of a program such as the Zero Waste Initiative at the Coliseum.” Swann said. “This is an opportunity for USC Athletics and our fans to lead the way in terms of taking ownership of our environmental impact on game days. Our University, fans and alumni should be proud of the success of this program.”