How Green is York Racecourse?

The York Racecourse team take their responsibility for the environment seriously and are continuing their work to ensure the world class sporting venue, which provides sustenance for over 360,000 people and 1,500 thoroughbreds each season, has zero waste to landfill.  

All the bars and food concessionaires throughout the racecourse, which hosts 80,000 people over the course of four days in August alone, only use products that can be sent for composting, so: 

·         wooden forks and knives;

·         paper straws;

·         burger cartons and sandwich boxes are all biodegradable; and

·         no polystyrene is used in catering on site, 

meaning c.110,000 tonnes of compost produced at the site of local partner, Yorwaste, each year.  With a depot close to the course, by the biggest independent composter in the UK, the Racecourse also limits its “compost miles.” 

The health benefits of consuming water are met by free drinking fountains around the stands as well as iced water in jugs on all the main bars.  However, there are times when it simply needs to be bottled, so glass is the first choice.  Moreover, official water partner is the local Harrogate Spring who are also committed to taking care of the environment with all their products carrying the Tidyman symbol.  Harrogate’s glass bottles are made using 50% recycled content whilst their PET bottles use more than 51% UK-sourced, post-consumer recycled content (rPET) - the highest percentage of any bottled water producer.  Once consumed, all their bottles are 100% recyclable including their label.  Harrogate Spring also hold the zero waste to landfill mark and, as their name suggests, have one of the lowest “water miles” from source to bottling in the industry.  

Using local produce is key to York Racecourse, being mindful of “food miles”, ensures our food is both fresh and environmentally friendly.  For example, Ged Bell Butchers & Pie Maker located just beyond the back straight, provides York with award-winning sausages and famous Yorkshire pork pies.  Yorvale ice cream satisfies those with a sweet tooth, and Bleikers Smokehouse in Northallerton adds the flavours to fish, often caught on Yorkshire’s East Coast.

The drive to recycle does need the help of all our visitors and those based here, so look out for the colour coded waste management system highlighting to all how to help us separate waste for recycling.  We have:

·         100 x 360 Ltr blue coloured glass recycling bins: if you are lucky enough to be in one our boxes or restaurants, notice how we’ve made a conscious effort to use glass instead of other less environmentally friendly packaging; and

·         20 x burgundy 360Ltr bins for dry mixed recycling.

Back-of-house we have a further system which separates, glass, mixed recycling, general waste and food waste ahead of collection by Yorwaste. 

What does this all add up to? 

·    In 2018, 272 tonnes of glass and mixed recycling (paper, cardboard and plastic) were collected by Yorwaste and processed in their North Yorkshire recycling plant, Harewood Whin.  

·      York Racecourse is also in partnership with Refood – Yorkshire based but also the European market leader in food waste recycling - working on greener and safer food waste recycling.  Refood offers an alternative to sending unwanted food to landfill by creating renewable energy for the National Grid.  Last year 9,247 KWh of renewable energy were produced from unwanted food, of which the Welcome to Yorkshire Ebor Festival contributed over 2000 KWh. As a result, 3.44 tonnes of CO2 were saved over our four-day August meet alone, through displacement of fossil fuel and diversion from landfill.  




York Racecourse’s efforts to be green do not end with recycling, it is designed into our latest buildings. As an example, the latest improvement at the track the Premier Racing Lounge features:

 ·         energy saving lighting throughout;   

·    including motion sensitive lights (it might be a little busy on a raceday to demonstrate these, but take it from the team based here all year around, they work); 

·         insulation on windows and walls to the right standard; and

·         it was even built by a York based contractor, Lindum.  



Looking after those 1,500 horses means looking after our racing surface, another area where matters “green” are important in both senses of the word, so:

·         if we do need to irrigate then an onsite borehole provides up to 6,300,000 gallons of sustainable water, therefore it is literally recycled from the aquifer under the car park and then back to the track;

·         the grass cuttings when the track is mowed are returned to the soil; and

·       a natural seaweed based product is used as a bio stimulant as part of the preparation of the track itself.

Whilst we are yet to find a local solution to the wider issue of the methane that the horses might emit into the atmosphere, we are pleased to report that 70% of those stabled with us opt to use bedding made from recycled paper and the other 30% is from wood shavings from sustainable forests with every by-product from the tree used and where every tree harvested is replaced.   



Demonstrating that the little things can help make a difference, the kitchen in the office even uses ecological washing up liquid.

The racecourse continues to look at further projects that involve recycling and energy saving.