Tailgating at a USC football game represents a huge part of what it means to be a Trojan. With more than 65,000 fans on campus grounds at a time, it also generates about 13 tons of waste — per game.
This year, USC Athletics, the Office of Sustainability and Facilities Management Services are teaming up to launch a program aimed at simultaneously minimizing the waste created by tailgaters while recycling the maximum amount possible of the waste that is generated.
“This isn’t about putting out more recycle bins and hoping for the best,” said Pat Haden, holder of the USC Charles Griffin Cale Director of Athletics’ Chair and director of athletics. “This is about educating tailgaters about how to generate as little waste as possible and then making sure they know what waste is and isn’t recyclable.
“USC students and fans care about the environment. We want to make sure that they have the tools and knowledge they need to tailgate responsibly.”
About 75 student volunteers from campus organizations will spread out at each game, educating tailgaters about recycling and strategies for minimizing waste — using washable plates instead of disposable paper plates, for example.
“USC’s trash already goes through a sorting process to pick out recyclables. But keeping recyclable and compostable material out of the trash in the first place reduces contaminated materials that cannot be recycled,” said Sustainability Steering Committee Chair and Associate Senior Vice President Charles Lane.
“Also, students come to USC to learn. We don’t want to teach them that it’s OK to throw everything in the trash — that someone else will take care of it. We’re reminding them to be responsible for their own impact on the planet,” Lane said.
Some of the volunteers will be stationed at new recycle and compost bins throughout campus, helping tailgaters with the process of properly disposing of their waste.
During and after the tailgate, a group will comb through McCarthy Quad and Alumni Park to collect discarded plastic cups.
“Single-use plastic cups can be difficult to recycle,” said USC Sustainability Program Manager Halli Bovia. “But through a nonprofit called TerraCycle, which specializes in difficult materials, we can have them ground down for use in other plastic products.”
In addition, tailgaters can sign up for “Zero Waste Tailgate Certification” on the Office of Sustainability’s website. Tailgating teams that pledge — and then demonstrate — to divert 90 percent or more of their waste from the landfill through recycling and composting will earn a Cardinal Level designation. Those who do so and also minimize waste by employing reusable materials can earn a Gold Level designation.
More information about tailgate waste diversion and Zero Waste Tailgate Certification can be found at green.usc.edu/tailgate-waste-diversion
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