A behind-the-scenes look at St. Louis CITY SC’s sustainability efforts

As St. Louis CITY SC striker João Klauss deftly deflected the ball into the back of the net during the 57th minute of Sunday’s 1-0 victory at CITYPARK, some of the most important work of the day was unfolding just a few feet away in the bowels of the stadium.

Underneath the south stands is a room where CITY’s sustainability efforts come to life. In the sorting room, workers sift through virtually every piece of trash produced in the stadium—a complex, highly orchestrated effort to curb the amount of waste generated by the sold-out crowds that regularly descend upon the stadium. Upon the club’s founding, CITY declared its intention to be an exceptional neighbor in the St. Louis region. For CITY, that means many things. Chief among them is a desire to reduce trash and champion sustainable initiatives on matchdays and beyond.

Every time a capacity crowd of 22,423 diehard supporters cram themselves into the stadium, the club strives to keep 95 percent of CITYPARK’s gameday waste from ever reaching a landfill. It’s an effort that starts with the help of fans on the concourse, where pre-sorting bins are located and compostable containers are handed out at every concession stand.

“Luckily, after COVID, our partners were already used to rethinking how they package their food.” says Gerard Craft, CITY’s chief flavor officer. “Containers have come such a long way. You look at the trays available from most of our vendors, they’re completely compostable. That simply wasn’t available five years ago.”

Reducing waste is a team effort that has required education, commitment, and a little bit of innovation along the way.

Garbage from the stadium’s pre-sorted bins is delivered to the basement in three major installments—after kickoff, at halftime, and at full time—throughout the day. From there, every piece is sorted by hand to make sure that compostables and recyclables aren’t contaminated by items that have to be sent to a landfill. 

“We’re always trying to educate,” says Samantha Thompson, CITY’s director of sustainability and facility services. “But sustainability is hard work; it requires extra vigilance. Upstairs, it helps that we’ve eliminated single-use plastic for aluminum where we can. Aluminum can be recycled infinitely as opposed to plastic that can only be recycled a few times. So by the time it makes its way through our sorting room, it isn’t sitting here for long.”

“We’re usually here until 3 or 4 in the morning, sorting and weighing everything.” Thompson says. “It’s hard work, and really long hours, but it’s definitely worth the effort we put in. The crew does a really amazing job.”

So the next time you see CITY keeper Roman Bürki make another highlight-worthy stop at CITYPARK, just think: mere steps away, the sorters are making saves of their own. They may go unnoticed, but each is seemingly as valuable as any to take place in the stadium on a given matchday.

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