AEG Worldwide Sees Zero Waste Opportunities in Reusables

AEG Worldwide Sees Zero Waste Opportunities in Reusables
(Photo: A sculpture done by AEG’s arena in Perth to raise awareness about ocean plastic. Credit: AEG Worldwide)

“If you’re not for zero waste, how much waste are you for?” John Marler, vice president of energy and environment for AEG Worldwide challenged attendees at the fourth annual Environmental Leader & Energy Manager Conference currently taking place in Denver.

Marler discussed waste in the sports and entertainment industry with Stephanie Barger, director of market transformation and development for the USGBC’s TRUE Zero Waste program as well as his AEG colleague Cameron Marcotte, general manager for the new Mission Ballroom venue that opens in Denver this August.

AEG has a target of diverting 70% of their waste from landfill by 2020, which presents numerous challenges. Marler shared his list of what doesn’t work in the quest for zero waste, gleaned from experience:

  • Front of house and/or public sorting
  • Complexity and opacity from service providers
  • Over-reliance on co-mingled streams or single-stream recycling
  • Compostable, digestible, biodegradable service ware
  • Organizational inertia and lack of willingness to change
  • Well-meaning but flawed laws, regulations, policies
  • Infrequent training, education, awareness
  • Focusing only on in-house and downstream aspects
  • Inaccurate and inconsistent financial accounting for waste management
  • Lack of data throughout the process

On the flip side, here’s what Marler said is needed in the industry:

  • Basic data and data management for waste and recycling streams
  • Incentive aligned with preferred outcomes
  • More education and engagement on upstream elements
  • Identification and publication of landfill and incineration options
  • More green waste infrastructure
  • More “take back” programs from producers
  • Additional training, education, and awareness for everyone
  • More industry “disrupters” in waste and materials management
  • Regular contracting and invoicing procedures, bill management
  • Service optimization

Marler has a background working in energy and utilities. “Water and waste are hugely overdue for the Teslas and Ubers to revolutionize those industries and move things forward,” he told attendees.

AEG has been piloting thicker-walled reusable cups similar to the ones available at restaurants. These cups go into a bin that gets sent to a cleaning service for reuse the next day, Marcotte explained. They are being planned for the Mission Ballroom.

She added that there is still a lot of initial skepticism around deploying reusables at an entertainment venue, but key partnerships — including with the health department in Denver for the Mission Ballroom, are helping AEG.

“We want to become as close to zero waste as we can,” Marcotte said.

Stay tuned for more updates from #ELEMCON19.

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