March 19, 2008 | General

Fairgrounds Highlights Sustainable Facilities Management

BioCycle March 2008, Vol. 49, No. 3, p. 32
The Del Mar Fairgrounds in San Diego County, California, which hosts more than 3.1 million visitors annually, diverted 93.5 percent of its solid waste stream in 2007.
Nancy Strauss

THE Del Mar Fairgrounds, in Del Mar, California, is a 375-acre facility that is owned and operated by the 22nd District Agricultural Association, an agency for the State of California. It hosts the annual San Diego County Fair (with an average annual attendance of more than 1.2 million), the Del Mar Thoroughbred Racing Meet (43 days of horse racing) and a satellite wagering facility. The Fairgrounds has a Recreation Center with tennis, RV parking, mini golf and golf driving range. In addition, it rents facilities to an average of 4 to 10 events per week, and rents stables for over 200 horses at the Horsepark. All told, the Fairgrounds hosts more than 3.1 million visitors annually.
Del Mar Fairgrounds started its recycling program in 1985 (with office paper) and has since expanded to include recovery of more than 30 different materials including food discards, beverage containers and cardboard. Recycling bins are placed next to every trash can at all events. In 2007, the Fairgrounds achieved a 93.5 percent diversion rate for its solid waste, and has set a goal of “zero waste.” The Fairgrounds has won 18 awards for its Recycling and Resource Conservation Programs, including the 2005 Western Fairs Association coveted Merrill Award for Superior Achievement and the California Resource Recovery Association’s “Outstanding Zero Waste Achievement Award.”
The number of Fairgrounds recycling staff varies according to needs, with two lead recycling workers and a few temporary staff members on average. Staff is increased up to a 16-person crew during the annual fair. All recyclables (except for mixed construction and demolition debris) are sorted or separated at the source on grounds. Additionally, each employee’s desk trash can was replaced with a mini trash bin. The original trash can is used for mixed paper collection. Cardboard and beverage containers are handled separately for recycling.
Food vendors and exhibitors who produce a large amount of corrugated cardboard must sign contracts that require them to flatten the cardboard and take it to one of several collection points adjacent to buildings. It is then baled in 1,000-pound bales, and eventually a local recycler pays the Fairgrounds for the material, and hauls it away.
Food vendors and exhibitors at the Annual County Fair are contractually bound to participate in the preconsumer food scraps and cooking oil collection program. Two-wheeled carts are provided for collection of food scraps, and a local rendering company supplies covered barrels at most food stands for collection of the oil. Recycling crews collect the food scrap containers every other day and deposit the material into a 20-yard roll-off bin. The bin is then hauled every five to seven days to a local composter. The renderer collects the oil barrels from the grounds as needed. Failure to comply with the Fairgrounds recycling requirements can result in a $200 fine per incident to the vendor/exhibitor and may affect future participation.
The two largest components of the Del Mar Fairgrounds’ waste stream are green waste and animal bedding/manure. Landscaping crews collect green waste (grass clippings, leaves, brush and branches) and deliver them to a local composter. There are three outlets for animal bedding and manure. One is a private company that collects and composts wood shavings from horse shows and boarding facilities. Straw is also collected at the Fairgrounds and delivered to a local mushroom grower. Workers deliver the remaining wood shavings and manure to a local composter. The food waste collected during the County Fair is hauled to the Miramar Greenery at the Miramar Landfill, operated by the City of San Diego, where it is composted in windrows. Miramar Greenery is the only facility permitted to handle food waste in the area.
In 2007, the Del Mar Fairgrounds purchased a 28-foot Vermitech vermicomposting unit to handle the preconsumer food scraps during the racing season. All preconsumer fruit and vegetable scraps (collected from the kitchens) during that time are run through a pulper to reduce volume, and then fed to worms. The rest of the year, when volume is not an issue, the scraps are applied directly to the Vermitech bin, which has a sprinkler system, lighting and a shaving bar that automatically slides across the bottom of the material and shaves off the vermicompost for collection.
During the racing season, approximately 250 pounds/week of kitchen scraps are processed in the worm bin. The castings will be used in the gardens on the Fairgrounds. When the food waste reaches excessive quantities (for instance, 22 tons in 22 days during the annual San Diego County Fair), the scraps are shipped to the composter in a sealed container.
Del Mar Fairgrounds also recovers C&D debris from its facilities. Asphalt and concrete from parking lots, building foundations and much of the facility renovations are sent to a local C&D recycler. The total tonnage diverted at the Fairgrounds in 2007 was over 36,800 tons, with a remaining 2,569 disposed, to achieve the overall diversion of 93.5 percent.
As part of the Fairgrounds Resource Conservation Policy, the use of polystyrene containers by food providers on site is prohibited, and there is a program for purchasing products with recycled content. In January 2007, a “Poly Track” was installed, an $8.5 million race track surface composed of recycled carpet fiber, ground recycled tires and waxed sand. Besides the benefit of using recycled materials, it contributes significantly to water savings (an estimated 4.5 million gallons of water were saved at the most recent Del Mar Thoroughbred Club Race Meet). The old dirt track had to be watered after each race. Additional water reduction came from requiring spray nozzles with automatic shut-off valves on the wash rack hoses.
In 2003, the Fairgrounds installed a megawatt of photovoltaic solar panels on 11 horse barn roofs in the stable area. It received a grant covering approximately half the cost of the $4.8 million dollar project and took a little pressure off the energy grid.
The 22nd District Agricultural Association has received a total of more than $150,000 from the California Department of Conservation and the California Integrated Waste Management Board in the form of grants to support recycling programs. These funds were used to purchase beverage bottle recycling bins, service carts and a baler.
Major costs were avoided due to existing infrastructure. The Fairgrounds already owned its trash collection equipment, which it converted for use in its recycling program. In 2007, the Del Mar Fairgrounds recycling program realized a combined financial benefit of over $1.6 million. Of this amount, over $70,646 was revenue earned from recyclables; the balance was landfill savings.
However, reaching zero waste is still proving to be difficult, with the last 6.5 percent being the toughest to divert. Efforts include tracking new developments in biodegradable products, such as disposable cutlery and trash bags. It is estimated that a switch to these products could allow for more trash diversion and save $30,000 or more per year on trash fees.
Nancy Strauss is Resource Conservation Coordinator at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, a California State Agency, where she has worked for 23 years. She has spearheaded the recycling program since 1989, working with management, staff, and lessees toward a Board of Directors-adopted goal of Zero Waste. Her position has expanded into other environmental areas such as pollution prevention, conservation and grant writing for various environmental improvementsincluding a recent California Air Resources Board grant for low emission diesel fuel equipment totaling $325,000 in grant funding.

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