USC launches 'green tailgating' campaign for football season

Sept. 4, 2012, 12:57 p.m.

Katie Fries and Carol Passarelli collected cans at USC at a football game last year. (Courtesy of Halli Bovia/USC)

USC's football season kicked off this weekend and with the influx of more than 65,000 sports fans at every game... comes a lot of trash. According to USC, an average of 13 tons of waste are created at each game, so this year, the private university in South L.A. has created a two-pronged program to address the issue.

USC Sustainability Program Manager Halli Bovia said the majority of their efforts are focused on the actual college campus though -- not the L.A. Memorial Coliseum where the games are played, or the parking lot where much of the tailgating takes place. Bovia said this is because USC doesn't operate the coliseum, and are aiming to influence the visitors and students who gather and pass through the actual campus.

The university's efforts include educating football fans about ways to reduce waste and providing more clearly labeled banners and bins for recycling and composting. Bovia added that although there were plenty of trash and recycling receptacles before, they looked very similar to each other and may have hindered people's correct use of them.

“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 Charles Lane, sustainability steering committee chair, in a statement.

In addition to facilitating on-campus waste management, USC has created a “Zero Waste Tailgate Certification” for dedicated game-goers who want to educate themselves about more eco-friendly ways to tailgate. USC recommends skipping the familiar red plastic cups and instead using reusable cups, plates and utensils. Other tips include composting all leftover food and paper goods in the school's green bins and recycling anything with a number 1 to 7 on it.

For those who decide to use plastic cups and leave them behind after tailgating, a group of about 75 volunteers will be dispersed throughout the campus on game days, educating visitors about waste minimization and picking up plastic cups left behind in the quad or other USC tailgating areas.

“Single-use plastic cups can be difficult to recycle,” Bovia in a statement. “But through a non-profit called TerraCycle, which specializes in difficult materials, we can have them ground down for use in other plastic products.”

This past Saturday was the first game of the season, so Bovia said she doesn't have numbers yet on the program's effectiveness -- but the school's "green tailgating" effort is also accompanied by a heightened Metro presence encouraging the use of public transit. In addition to increased availability of Expo line trains before and after USC football games, Metro is sending officials to the university on game days to help visitors find and connect with their needed bus or train.

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