CSU athletics uses Eco-Products disposables for games

Ty Betts

Eco-Products, a Boulder-based food-disposables company, helps clients become environmentally responsible with cups that cannot be recycled.

Certain cups can, however, be composted, and Colorado State University athletics has started to use Eco-Products disposables to help attain a vision of zero waste at sporting events. Eco-Products supplies some of the cups at the new on-campus stadium as well as sponsored two zero waste basketball games at CSU by selling and donating compostable disposables, Sarah Martinez, Director of Marketing for Eco-Products, said. However, selling compostable forks, straws and cups is not all Eco-Products does.

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“We want to help our customers keep that compostable cup out of the landfill,” Martinez said.

Eco-Products does this by providing free sustainability consulting which could mean training staff, working with composters or designing signage Martinez said.

Maggie Gilman, a member of the Zero Waste Team at CSU, worked closely with the processing of Eco-Products materials. If sorted correctly at a sporting event, an Eco-Products cup will end up at the CSU foothills campus composting facility.

“They break down really awesome,” Gilman said. “They also add structure to the compost and allow air to breathe through it.”

Composting cups also means less recycling that has to take place, a system that Martinez said has become problematic.

“There is a huge problem with recycling as we know it,” Martinez said. “Economically it often just doesn’t make sense. The cost to capture material, sort it, and then find buyers is just really challenging and often can’t compete with using virgin material.”

Martinez said there needs to be more companies making products with recycled content, but, as of now, the demand for recycled plastic just is not enough. Martinez also noted the number of plastic varieties also makes recycling a challenging process.

At CSU, Gillman said creating formal contracts specifying what disposable products vendors at sports games can use would help limit what ends up in a landfill. Gilman also said incorporating more partnerships with companies like Eco-Products will need to take place to reach zero waste.

Creative Services Manager for Eco-Products, Kate Bennett, said Eco-Products not only provides disposables for the CSU stadium but also to the baseball stadiums for the Seattle Mariners, Minnesota Twins and restaurants including Snooze, Chipotle and Garbanzo.

“We try to be a sustainability partner, not just someone selling cups,” Bennett said.

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While Martinez said Eco-Products is the largest foodservice packaging brand exclusively dedicated to environmentally focused products, they are nowhere near the scale of other disposables companies.

“Compared to the large Solo cups of the world, we’re a speck,” Martinez said.

Price is certainly one factor that gives Solo Cup Company an advantage in this industry, but there is one benefit to compostable foodware that may give Eco-Products an edge for clients who are committed to diverting waste from landfills.

“If you’re at a game and you eat half a sandwich, you don’t eat all your fries and you have nacho cheese on your nacho tray – the average fan isn’t going to spend a lot of time separating out the food and putting it into a different bin,” Martinez said. “But with compostable packaging, a commercial composter will take the packaging and the leftover food.”   

Collegian reporter Ty Betts can be reached at news@collegian.com or on Twitter @TyBetts9.