Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Driving for More Green; NASCAR Is Shifting into High Gear with Its Focus on Recycling Programs

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Driving for More Green; NASCAR Is Shifting into High Gear with Its Focus on Recycling Programs

Article excerpt

Byline: Don Coble

DAYTONA BEACH | If you stacked all the empty soft drink and beer cans left behind at Daytona International Speedway last year, it would stretch from Jacksonville to St. Augustine.

And none of them wound up in a landfill.

A sport that has a reputation for guzzling gas and wearing out a lifetime supply of tires in a single afternoon has taken a turn to be friendlier to the environment. And like the people who drive race cars every weekend, NASCAR's green initiative is at full throttle.

Speedways throughout the NASCAR family now are committed to recycling programs. The sport has shifted to unleaded ethanol-enhanced biofuel and fuel injection systems to reduce the carbon footprint. Most of a crashed race car is salvaged, either to be used again, sold to other teams or sent to recycling centers.

And one track even powers its facility with solar panels.

"Why? It makes good sense," said Andrew Gurtis, Daytona's vice president of operations.

Industry-wide, speedways have planted more trees, sorted trash and switched to more-efficient power. The commitment makes NASCAR one of the country's most powerful environmental awareness platforms in the country, the sanctioning body said.

No other professional sport recycles more than NASCAR. The reasons are simple: NASCAR allows fans to bring coolers to games; NASCAR averages more than 100,000 fans a race; and no other professional sport allows fans to drive into the infield and watch from their cars.

That creates a lot of trash - and some unexpected opportunities.

476,000 CANS

At Daytona, that translated to more than 476,000 empty cans in 2012. At current prices, that translates to a profit of more than $865,000.

"I've been with Daytona International Speedway for more than 22 years, and we've been recycling aluminum the entire time," Gurtis said. "But only recently there has been a lot more attention paid to it. It's not unlike what people do at their homes. Every one of us needs to think about what we can do. We just do it at a different level."

Next Saturday's Coke Zero 400 will be another chance for Daytona International Speedway to collect more cans - and recycle them.

A year ago, the speedway not only sent seven tons of empty cans to recycling centers, but it kept 99 tons of cardboard, 23 tons of steel and 28 tons of commingled mixed materials from clogging up local landfills.

"We even take the trimmings from our bushes and yard waste to be turned into mulch," Gurtis said. "The beauty is it makes good business sense. And it's the right thing to do. If it doesn't end up in a landfill, it's the right thing to do. There's value to it."

While Daytona takes its recycling program to an extreme, no other sports facility has taken the green initiative further than Pocono Raceway. …

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