Fans, Teams Tackle Football Tailgate Waste

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Students recycle on game day at the University of Iowa. Photo: Waste Management

Written by Tim Gray, strategic business director, Waste Management

If you’ve been to a football game or tailgate this season, you may have noticed that events like that produce a lot of waste. In fact, stadiums produce more than 39 million pounds of waste each year –enough waste to cover an entire football field and more.

With NFL games averaging 70,000 fans and NCAA games averaging 50,000 fans, game day can produce a lot of waste.

College and professional teams across the country have begun to put that waste to work with ambitious recycling programs. For example, the Houston Texans are encouraging fans, employees and team members to recycle with special bins for plastic bottles, cups, and aluminum cans. In 2011, the Texans distributed approximately 850,000 plastic bottles during the season, so this program has the potential for making a large impact.

So how can you contribute to the effort? Here are some reminders on how to have a greener game day:

  • Plan to recycle. Not all stadiums have recycling readily available in the tailgate or seating areas. Come prepared with bags to collect bottles and cans to bring home to properly recycle.
  • Leave that fourth casserole at home. Bring only the food, drink and supplies that you think you will actually use. This will reduce the chance that those leftovers end up in the trash.
  • Embrace reusable options. Plastic cups and paper plates are very convenient, but they account for a lot of waste at tailgates. If you’re not a fan of bringing reusable options, consider recyclable or biodegradable choices.

Check out this list from Earth911 for a few more great tips and reminders.

While tailgates and games can create a lot of waste, college campuses are creating even more waste during the offseason. College campuses in the United States produce an estimated 105 Million pounds of waste every day. That’s more than 38 billion pounds per year – enough to fill several football fields.

Colleges have a unique opportunity to educate young people and help them develop lifelong habits, including recycling, which will help reduce that amount of waste. For example, campuses such as Rutgers University in New Jersey are improving recycling rates through a single-stream program, larger, solar-powered compacting recycle receptacles across campus and increased awareness of recycling among students. And this approach has been successful – in the years since they implemented these changes, they’ve achieved a 67 percent recycling material diversion rate and continue to work toward a goal of 85 percent by 2015.

On campus or off, these recycling tips will make for a more sustainable football season. No matter which team you root for, go green!

Read: Reusable Replacements for Your Tailgate

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