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Creative Solutions to the
Compost Conundrum

How are sports venues overcoming challenges in commercial composting?

The Compost Conundrum is a mismatch between the intent to adopt composting practices and the operational realities needed to:

  1. Divert food waste
  2. Transition to compostable alternatives for single-use products

Our waste and sustainability experts at APTIM uncovered this challenge in sports venues across North America in our 2022 Sustainable Sport Index (SSI) Benchmarking Report. While 78% of participating venues used compostable serviceware, only 38% provided compost bins to dispose of them appropriately. Those trends have continued year over year, with marginal improvements.

Through developing our industry-leading resource for sustainable sport, we understand venues lack the infrastructure and facilities to safely handle large volumes of compostable material. Barriers in regulation and infrastructure must be overcome to realize the full potential of commercial composting, but creative, interim solutions exist to momentarily close the gap on organic waste diversion.

Causes of the Commercial Composting Conundrum

Roadblocks in Organics Regulations

As of 2023, only 24% of SSI participants were required by law to compost, and 57% of participants may be required to compost, at least yard waste, in the near-term future. While policy is supporting the push for organics diversion, only nine states have regional food waste regulations.

  • California
  • Connecticut
  • Massachusetts
  • New Hampshire
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Oregon
  • Vermont
  • Washington

Seventeen states have landfill yard debris bans:

  • Arkansas
  • Delaware
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Maryland
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • Pennsylvania
  • Rhode Island
  • South Carolina
  • South Dakota
  • West Virginia
  • Wisconsin

Residents and businesses in the other half of the country yearn for adequate policies to implement new diversion techniques and select new haulers. New commercial composting facilities are being invested in each year, but infrastructure and resources are struggling to match the pace.

Commercial Composting Infrastructure

The three most common organic wastes in sports venues are yard waste, food waste, and compostable serviceware and bioplastics. Composting infrastructure to manage these materials for sports venues should include on-site space for sorting and anaerobic digestion, as well nearby commercial composting facilities needed to haul and properly dispose of organic waste. In the US, there are approximately 3,000 composting facilities, but not all of them accept the variety of organics produced at sports venues. Of the approximately 3,000 facilities:

  • ~1,800 accept yard waste, food waste, or organics only
  • ~100 accept compostable packaging, food waste, and yard waste
  • ~1,100 are unclear on their website (facility-specific evaluation required)

Therefore, only about 3% of compost facilities in the US are equipped to manage all the organic waste generated in sports venues, demonstrating a significant gap in diversion efforts.

Championing Organic Waste Diversion

The SSI Benchmarking Report is designed as a solutions finder, highlighting best practices and case studies for successful venue sustainability. Many of our participating SSI venues have overcome regulatory and infrastructure barriers to commercial composting using the following creative solutions:

  • 70% offer food donation programs
  • 8% divert food scraps for animal feed
  • 13% use an anaerobic digester to produce biogas from organic material
  • 22% use artificial turf rather than live turf
  • 24% use reusable containers (Download Green Sports Alliance’s Reuse Playbook to learn more.)

Learn More in Our Annual Benchmarking Report

Inspiring innovation and exploring best practices are the primary goals of our Sustainable Sport Index. Our 2023 SSI Benchmarking Report is available now, and our 2024 report will be launching with new insights this fall.

If you represent a major or minor league sports venue, we invite you to participate in our 2024 survey. Contact us at to receive your unique survey link and get started with a member of our team.

APTIM. In Pursuit of Better.

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