The Super Bowl generates 40 tons of trash. It's possible none of it will go to a landfill.

In the world of sports, there are few spectacles bigger than the Super Bowl.

Equal parts athleticism and consumerism, the annual showcase is often the most-watched television event of the year. And for the host city, it's a legit economic engine.

Super Bowl XLIX was played in Glendale, Arizona, with neighboring cities Phoenix and Scottsdale hosting parties and events. The state saw an economic impact to the tune of $719.4 million. In the words of Joe Biden, "This is a big f-ing deal."


But for as much as the Super Bowl generates a ton of cash, it also generates a ton of something else — waste.

Tom Brady celebrates after the Patriots defeat the Atlanta Falcons. Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images.

The Super Bowl can bring a ton of benefits to its host city. But it also brings some pretty huge burdens.

About a million people will flock to the Twin Cities for this year's game and celebrations. That's a lot of crowds, a lot of traffic, and a lot of garbage.

The first two are tough to avoid, but there's a plan in place to help with the latter.

A packed U.S. Bank Stadium, which will host the Super Bowl Feb. 4, 2018. Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images.

This year, some of the game's corporate partners are joining forces to host Super Bowl's first zero-waste legacy project.

U.S. Bank Stadium, the NFL, Minnesota Sports Facilities Authority, PepsiCo, and food service provider Aramark are teaming up for the lofty endeavor of producing no waste during the main event. That doesn't mean fans won't throw anything away — instead, organizers hope to keep the more than 40 tons of trash typically generated during a Super Bowl out of the landfill.

90% of the garbage from the game, food waste and paper, will be composted or recycled. The remaining 10% of waste will likely be plastics that can't be reused. These will go to a waste-to-energy incinerator where it will be burned and converted to power. (These facilities aren't without controversy, as the emissions may affect air quality over time.)

The Super Bowl XLIX in Arizona launched a zero-waste effort in 2015. In addition to waste from game day, community members repurposed textiles and recyclables from pre-game events and celebrations. Even kids got in on the action, donating 33,000 supplies to schools in the area. The all-in effort led to 73% of waste diverted from landfills.

Logan Ryan of the New England Patriots possibly celebrating the fact that this confetti won't end up in a landfill. Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images.

And this isn't a one-and-done pursuit. Organizers hope to use their learnings to help other stadiums host zero-waste events.

Following the Super Bowl, best practices from the project will be shared widely with other event organizers, with the goal of hosting zero-waste events around the world, all year-round. And what better beta test than one of the biggest events of the year?

“What differentiates it from anything we’ve done in the past is the commitment to not just doing this for one day, but to work together to change the paradigm," Jack Groh, director of the NFL's environmental program told Fortune.

Waste bins separating recyclables, compost, and trash at the Summer X Games. Photo by Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images.

No matter who wins the game, the MVP is always the planet.

Whether at home or at one of the biggest sporting events in the world, we can't take our eyes off what's important: having a safe, clean, healthy place to live for generations to come.

Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
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Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

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When "bobcat" trended on Twitter this week, no one anticipated the unreal series of events they were about to witness. The bizarre bobcat encounter was captured on a security cam video and...well...you just have to see it. (Read the following description if you want to be prepared, or skip down to the video if you want to be surprised. I promise, it's a wild ride either way.)

In a North Carolina neighborhood that looks like a present-day Pleasantville, a man carries a cup of coffee and a plate of brownies out to his car. "Good mornin!" he calls cheerfully to a neighbor jogging by. As he sets his coffee cup on the hood of the car, he says, "I need to wash my car." Well, shucks. His wife enters the camera frame on the other side of the car.

So far, it's just about the most classic modern Americana scene imaginable. And then...

A horrifying "rrrrawwwww!" Blood-curdling screaming. Running. Panic. The man abandons the brownies, races to his wife's side of the car, then emerges with an animal in his hands. He holds the creature up like Rafiki holding up Simba, then yells in its face, "Oh my god! It's a bobcat! Oh my god!"

Then he hucks the bobcat across the yard with all his might.

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Images courtesy of John Scully, Walden University, Ingrid Scully
True

Since March of 2020, over 29 million Americans have been diagnosed with COVID-19, according to the CDC. Over 540,000 have died in the United States as this unprecedented pandemic has swept the globe. And yet, by the end of 2020, it looked like science was winning: vaccines had been developed.

In celebration of the power of science we spoke to three people: an individual, a medical provider, and a vaccine scientist about how vaccines have impacted them throughout their lives. Here are their answers:

John Scully, 79, resident of Florida

Photo courtesy of John Scully

When John Scully was born, America was in the midst of an epidemic: tens of thousands of children in the United States were falling ill with paralytic poliomyelitis — otherwise known as polio, a disease that attacks the central nervous system and often leaves its victims partially or fully paralyzed.

"As kids, we were all afraid of getting polio," he says, "because if you got polio, you could end up in the dreaded iron lung and we were all terrified of those." Iron lungs were respirators that enclosed most of a person's body; people with severe cases often would end up in these respirators as they fought for their lives.

John remembers going to see matinee showings of cowboy movies on Saturdays and, before the movie, shorts would run. "Usually they showed the news," he says, "but I just remember seeing this one clip warning us about polio and it just showed all these kids in iron lungs." If kids survived the iron lung, they'd often come back to school on crutches, in leg braces, or in wheelchairs.

"We all tried to be really careful in the summer — or, as we called it back then, 'polio season,''" John says. This was because every year around Memorial Day, major outbreaks would begin to emerge and they'd spike sometime around August. People weren't really sure how the disease spread at the time, but many believed it traveled through the water. There was no cure — and every child was susceptible to getting sick with it.

"We couldn't swim in hot weather," he remembers, "and the municipal outdoor pool would close down in August."

Then, in 1954 clinical trials began for Dr. Jonas Salk's vaccine against polio and within a year, his vaccine was announced safe. "I got that vaccine at school," John says. Within two years, U.S. polio cases had dropped 85-95 percent — even before a second vaccine was developed by Dr. Albert Sabin in the 1960s. "I remember how much better things got after the vaccines came out. They changed everything," John says.

Keep Reading Show less