By: Jenny Alpaugh | Photography: Jenny Alpaugh
It’s Saturday in Athens. Tens of thousands of people flood into Athens on Saturdays in hopes of watching the Bulldogs dominate another football team. They bring energy. They stimulate the Athens economy. They leave lots of trash on the University of Georgia’s campus.
“It’s an enormous problem, but it still surprises me that they’re able to clean it up after one night,” says Malcolm Barnard, a sophomore ecology and forestry double major. “They must work all night to do that.”
Barnard lives in Myers dorm, which is next to Myers quad, a popular tailgating spot. Despite cleanup efforts, he says sometimes shards of glass still remain in the grass. “I cut myself last year playing Ultimate Frisbee on a Sunday after game day,” Barnard says.
According to UGA’s game day gameplan’s website, SEC games created 72 tons of waste in 2008. Lauren Mullenbach, a sustainability in curriculum intern, hopes the type of waste has changed since then. “I don’t think that total waste has gone down at all. Hopefully the percentage of recycling has gone up,” Mullenbach says.
Mullenbach says recycling efforts began with students in bright green T-shirts sifting through trash cans after game days to find recyclables. Now, plastic bags for recyclables are passed out to tailgaters and recycling receptacles are placed around campus. However, the problem has still not been completely solved.
“It’s not just about putting trash bins and recycle bins next to each other because even if you do that, people just think that it’s two trash cans,” Mullenbach says. “They don’t know what goes in the recycle bin and what goes in the trash can.”
She also emphasizes the importance of education. She wants to help people learn what to recycle and what the effects of their game day waste on the environment are.
“I wish we could afford to hire people to do recycling outreach for every single home game because then people wouldn’t have this situation where they don’t know what is recyclable and what’s not,” Mullenbach says. “If they would have people out there telling them what is, that would be the best.”
There are plans in place for an outreach event for the homecoming game against Missouri on Oct. 17. Next to the Tate Center’s parking lot lies Tanyard Creek. Mullenbach and Ally Hellenga, a communications intern in the sustainability office, led a cleanup there on Dawg Day of Service. This was a campus-wide day of service for UGA on Aug. 29.
“We found a bunch of glass and plastic and a lot of things that could have been recycled but just ended up in that stream. I feel like a lot of people don’t realize that the stream is right there,” Hellenga says. “Our main goal is to just educate people that there is a stream back there, and it is important to recycle and not just toss your trash to the woods because it stays back there for a while.”
After the Oct. 3 football game against Alabama, another cleanup of Tanyard creek was done and the trash collected was measured. When the Oct. 17 homecoming game is over, a similar cleanup will be conducted with one main difference.
“We’re going to have on game day a group of people out there doing outreach to tailgaters and telling them that there’s a stream behind them, and we’re trying to restore it. There are ample recycle bins, so you have really no excuse to throw your bottle in the creek,” Hellenga says. “We’re going to have a game where you can toss cans into a field goal to win prizes.”
Mullenbach has high hopes for the effects of the outreach. “Hopefully we wont have anything to pick up and everyone will be bored,” Mullenbach says. “That’s my hope. A bunch of really bored volunteers.”