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The race to zero waste, UK aims to make Kroger Field a zero waste facility by 2030

Kroger Field set a new record last season for waste diverted from the landfill. Learn about the steps UK Recycling is taking to fulfill its goal of making Kroger Field a zero waste facility by 2030.

A recycling can and trash can sitting on the edge of a walkway at with Kroger Field in the backgorund.

Recycling at Kroger Field was up 10% in 2023 from 2022. | Photo courtesy of UK Recycling

While all eyes might be on Rupp Arena and the UK men’s basketball team, we’re bringing our focus to another Big Blue dream team — UK Recycling.

Did you know that the seven home football games last year created 5% of all the waste on campus in 2023? However, that number is lower than in years past thanks to the efforts of UK Recycling + the dedicated Big Blue Nation. In fact, 32% of waste at Kroger Field — 59.2 tons— was diverted from the landfill last season.

We spoke with Ryan Lark, a zero waste specialist at UK, about the steps his team is taking to make the stadium a zero-waste facility by 2030.

Current processes

UK Recycling utilizes two groups during the football season to support its efforts. “We’re trying to make it as easy as possible for people to recycle their waste,” Lark said.

  • Big Blue Recycling Crew | This team of student employees walk the parking lots on game days to educate fans on what + where to recycle.
  • Garbage Guards | This team is stationed by the entrance to the stadium and lets fans know if what they are about to throw out is actually recyclable.
Six green trash bins on wheels that say "food waste only" on UK's campus as part of their food composting program.

UK Recycling began composting at campus restaurants as well in 2019. | Photo courtesy of UK Recycling

Another piece to the puzzle is food. Any food that is able to be donated is taken to God’s Pantry. Anything that can’t be donated is composted thanks to the program piloted by UK Recycling and Aramark. Here’s a look at last year’s numbers:

  • 1.24 tons of food waste was composted
  • 1.5 tons of food was donated

“That was actually less than last year, which is a good thing, because that means we’re taking better care of how much food we’re actually putting out. So, we’re not creating that waste in the first place,” Lark said.

Future plans

That’s the goal for this year — eliminate waste on the front end and lessen the amount they create in the first place. They also hope to continue expanding the recycling program + extending food composting to all suites in the stadium.