M’s out to improve (enviro) average, change peanut packaging

Sep 5, 2012

The Mariners might not be topping their league for play this season. But when it comes to sustainability, they say they’ve got a winning team.

Right at the top of the lineup for dealing with trash is a chemical company that has a new formula for packaging the peanuts you buy at the ballpark. It's BASF. Remember the cassette tapes they used to make? The German chemicals giant is a big sponsor now of the Mariners. Local compost producer Cedar Grove is also in on the deal.

Their recipe for the plastic-like film that encases peanuts and potentially all kinds of other snacks at the ballpark is what the Ms say will help the team clear the 80% hurdle.

That’s the 80% of their trash that currently doesn’t end up in the landfill, says Mariners' operations VP Scott Jenkins, who talks about waste management like it’s mid-season stats.

“What gets measured gets managed, " Jenkins says. "And before anybody paid attention to what was your recycling rate and before we had good benchmarking comparisons to others, we really just weren't in the game. And now we're in the game. We're keeping score and driving performance.”

Jenkins admits they’re self-reporting, but they do take part in recycling audits and they’re going for zero waste. That would mean everything is recycled, reused or composted.

To get to the next level they needed something new.

They won’t give away the recipe for the new bags.  But you can get a free sample if you arrive early at Wednesday’s game against the Boston Red Sox. The team is offering free packs of peanuts to the first 10,000 fans.

BASF’s Kimberley Schiltz says the ballpark is a perfect place to demonstrate a technology they’d like to deploy elsewhere too.

“Such as airlines, universities, other types of programs that would have zero waste initiatives going on that we also would love to support.” Schiltz says.

Of course, fans could also just bring their own peanuts in paper bags. But don’t worry, there’s no ban on plastics at the ballpark, like the one at retailers in Seattle and several other towns around the region. The team just wants to handle it responsibly and they say many fans do too.

The debut of this packaging is taking place on the eve of an annual convention of environmentally-minded sports managers. This week's Green Sports Alliance summit meeting takes place in Seattle September 5-7 th.