World Cup Stadium Food and Sustainability

Written by GS Summer Intern Sundara Bhandaram

Luis Suarez, the Uruguayan soccer player, has taken a few bites out of his rivals....[meanwhile].... soccer fans in Brazil have been taking more acceptable bites out of tambaqui con fritas, or fish and chips. Over nine million fans at the twelve different stadiums have had the chance to try local Brazilian foods, as well as international favorites. As you can imagine, daily food consumption is tremendous.

With great food consumption comes great responsibility.

Food waste is a big problem at international sporting events. Most of the waste is kitchen waste, the result of over purchasing, or the lack of proper disposal bins. This is a big issue because the decomposition of food in a landfill produces methane [PDF] which is a greenhouse gas twenty one times stronger than carbon dioxide. During the 2010 FIFA event in South Africa the games attempted to reduce their environmental impact. All of the events were hosted in zero-emission green buildings to lower carbon emissions. Metro transportation was established to reduce congestion and promote a more eco-friendly transportation system. There were also recyclable waste bins which collected over 200 tons of waste. However the problem with the waste collected was that the waste management companies were overwhelmed by the quantity generated and dumped food waste into landfills. Overall the South Africa FIFA games made an effort towards sustainability but did not meet their potential in this specific sustainability category.

The 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil began with a mission of making the event the greenest event to date. From the start the games were in compliance of the Brazilian 2010 National Solid Waste Policy which combats food improper disposal. This has been embraced by FIFA and during all related events there has been an emphasis on the proper disposal of food waste. Each event venue has waste receptacles that are designed to capture food waste in a way that it can be separated from regular waste disposal. Brazilian waste management services, as a result of the 2010 policy, are more efficient at handling large quantities of waste and have not been hurdled by the trash generated by FIFA fans. As the games continue Japanese fans made headlines when they cleaned up stadiums after matches against Greece and Colombia. The dedication of Japanese fans shows how international sporting event can become excellent opportunities to practice sustainability. In particular - during the past few games FIFA has tracked food waste and aims to reduce it.

This is in compliance with Green Seal's GS-55 Standard for Restaurant and Food Services (released in March 2014) which points out the importance of monitoring waste. In addition, GS-55 focuses on what waste material should be recycled and how environmentally-preferable purchasing should be implemented. FIFA should take a cue from GS-55 and focus more on source reduction goals, such as purchasing products with reduced packaging, and lowering of the overall quanitity of products purchased. Specifically for food waste management, FIFA could begin recognizing exactly which food is going to waste and limiting those purchases. As many international soccer fans know, although there are many reasons to criticize FIFA, their support of these sustainability initiatives is admirable.