Hard Rock Stadium Eliminating 99.4% of Single-Use Plastics By 2020

Tom Garfinkel remembers sitting in awe and disbelief as he watched the 60 Minutes special on plastic pollution. The vice chairman, president and CEO of the Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium was taken aback by the seemingly endless amount of plastic floating in the oceans, congregating at the infamous Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Each year approximately 8 million tons of plastic waste ends up in the world’s oceans, according to the United Nations. If trends continue, oceans could contain more plastic than fish by 2050.

Garfinkel decided to take action, creating an internal committee in August to devise a strategy to reduce the amount of single-use plastics used at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami. The venue will proudly phase out 99.4% of single-use plastics by 2020, including for Super Bowl LIV.

“If we do something at the stadium and can set an example, what kind of larger impact can that have?” Garfinkel said. “I’m fortunate enough to be in a leadership position and I have a responsibility to lead, and I’m fortunate to have an owner (Stephen Ross) who is passionate about climate change and these initiatives.”

The proactive measures taken by the Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium will eliminate more than 2.8 million plastic items annually including cups, bottles, cutlery, stirrers and spoons as well as all plastic disposable packaging accompanying these items. Garfinkel said the venue utilizes approximately 678,000 plastic bottles and 525,000 plastic cups each year.

On December 22 as the Dolphins host the Cincinnati Bengals, Hard Rock Stadium will become the first venue in the NFL to feature 20-ounce sustainable aluminum cups by Ball Corporation; items which can be recycled an unlimited amount of times unlike plastic.

All stadium employees have also been given reusable water bottles. Aquafina is now sold in aluminum cans. The only remaining fan-facing plastic at the venue will be souvenir soda cups and ice cream sold in collectable football helmets.

Garfinkel said Hard Rock Stadium wouldn’t be able to make such massive changes for all of the venue’s events including NFL, NCAA football, concerts, soccer, the Miami Open and potentially Formula One so quickly without the help of its partners including Pepsi, Centerplate, Budweiser, Ball Corp. and the NFL.

“We are always trying to be ahead of the curve when it comes to providing innovative solutions for our clients and guests,” Centerplate vice-president Kevin Mitchell said. “This is another example of an innovative and practical enhancement that will help us reduce our carbon footprint.”

Eliminating more than 99% of its single-use plastics is just another example of green and sustainability efforts at Hard Rock Stadium. As a member of the Green Sports Alliance, the venue could host the Super Bowl with the lowest carbon footprint. Hard Rock Stadium already actively composts waste, donates excess food to local missions, has a no plastic straw policy, and utilizes waterless urinals, energy-efficient LED lighting and mobile tickets and payments.

“We have an opportunity because of the scale of what we do at the stadium to make a change,” Garfinkel said. “This isn’t a political thing and it’s not if you drink out of a plastic bottle you’re a bad person. The volume we do here creates a lot of plastic so if we can change that, we’re making a big difference.”

NOTE: First appeared on Forbes SportsMoney

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