When fall begins, Saturdays start to matter again. College football teams have prepared all summer for their upcoming season. Fans have waited to break out their jerseys and watch their teams succeed. Stadiums and tailgates will be full and the atmosphere will be electric. However, the competition goes further than the football teams. For fans, college game day means competing to produce the least amount of waste in their stadiums and tailgates.

The Ohio State University is setting a high standard for colleges competing in the GameDay Recycling Challenge. With 88 schools competing in 2013, The Horseshoe is the largest stadium in the country to achieve zero waste. Zero waste means diverting 90% or more from the landfill by recycling and composting. The Buckeyes had a diversion rate of 98.5%.

For the 2014 season, the University is continuing its efforts by launching a tailgate recycling program. Back in 2011, the Ohio Stadium launched “Zero Waste” to decrease gameday waste. Jon Hoge, tailgate recycling program student ambassador says that “Zero Waste” is strictly inside the stadium, which involves compost recycling only, however, the surrounding area in the tailgate lots that OSU owns is the tailgate recycling program, which is strictly recycling and not compost.

zero waste - ohio stadium recyclingThere are 16-20 city-wide high school student employees contracted through “Zero Waste” partner Tailored Management as well as tailgate recycling volunteers who attend each game helping fans determine what can be recycled. The volunteers try out various methods to encourage fans to recycle. “Some of them pass out recycling bags, some of them just interact with fans and encourage them to recycle,” Hoge said.  One method is to reward people who offer bags of recycled items to volunteers at the dumpsters. As a reward, people are entered into a raffle prize, which this year has been a customized OSU jersey.

After every game, materials that are thrown away at tailgates or in the stadium that are not recyclable or compostable will be weighed and stored into a separate bin. Once the season ends, the bin will be taken to the Franklin County Landfill.

“The specific numbers for a specific OSU game’s waste are hard to track from the landfill’s perspective because the waste is not tracked by venue, but by the hauler contracted with OSU’s stadium. The materials picked up by each hauler is often a mix of different sources for waste,” said Albert Losue, Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio director of planning and programs.

Now let’s not forget the 2013 champions in other categories:

  • Waste Minimization: Central Connecticut State University
  • Greenhouse Gas Reduction: Franklin College
  • Recycling: Franklin College
  • Organics Reduction: The University of Akron

“Leveraging the school spirit that comes out during these classic football rivalries presents a unique opportunity to build awareness and connection to waste reduction and recycling among college football fans of all ages,” said Brenda Pulley, senior vice president, recycling, Keep America Beautiful.

In 2013, participants diverted 1.5 million pounds of material in the waste stream along with greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to removing 413 cars from the road for a year.


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