Cleaning up from the tailgate season

GVL / Courtesy - Andrew Evers

GVL / Courtesy – Andrew Evers

Hannah Lentz

You check the calendar: Saturday’s football game is at 1 p.m. If you’re doing the math correctly, this means you need to be up at 9 a.m. in order to be plenty drunk for the 11 a.m. tailgate. Vodka and pancakes it is.

With football season coming to a close, it seems as though this year’s pre-game festivities have seen more than just team spirit.

The last home tailgate for the Battle of the Valleys game drew record crowds of party-seekers to GVSU. As with any tailgating event of substantial size, GVSU police reported increased levels of intoxication and consequently, an increase in the amount of trash left behind by those in attendance.

“We have a lot of individuals who are tailgating who may not be as respectful as usual,” said GVPD Capt. Brandon DeHaan. “Whatever garbage people may have — whether that be boxes, cans or bottles — should be taken care of before leaving the designated tailgating areas.”

But what happens to all the cans and tailgating materials left behind by tailgaters? That is where GVSU facilities and the Office of Sustainability come in.

As part of the Zero Waste Initiative, the team consisting of members from the Sustainable Community Development Initiative, campus dining, athletics department and Facilities Services sorts through the trash collected at football games and tailgates by hand to make sure that everything that could possibly be recycled is done so in the correct way.

GVSU is currently the the only university competing from Michigan’s Division II athletic program.

This initiative was created in competition with a total of 98 schools from the U.S. and Canada including Central Michigan University and the University of Michigan.

During the game against Saginaw Valley State University, facilities recorded 1,449 pounds of collected trash. By sorting through everything left behind by tailgaters and those attending the football game, GVSU was able to divert 76 percent of its waste from going to the landfill.

“We have seen great results in the last couple of years,” said Dave Edwards of GVSU facilities. “Every year we get better and better and get more ideas.”

Though this sorting process is a heavy task, this year has seen the least amount of volunteers since the beginning of the Zero Waste Initiative. Because of this lack of help, the sorting process can often take over four hours to complete. For the most recent home game, those involved recruited family and friends to go through trash and clean up.

One of the biggest problems facilities sees is people bringing in non-recyclable materials.

“If anyone is bringing in styrofoam cups and plates, we can’t recycle them,” Edwards said. “Keep this in mind when you are bringing materials to the game. Everything adds up.”

Another challenge is the lack of recyclable containers in the tailgating area due to the price of recycling stations. However, there are plans to buy more stations in the future to ensure that less waste is sent to the landfill.

“It comes down to respect for the school and for the grounds,” DeHaan said. “We have folks that have been volunteering a lot of time and that goes directly to the overall good of the environment and the university.”

If students are interested in volunteering, contact the Zero Waste Initiative program. Those who help out get to keep the cans collected for their organizations, receive free entry to the game and a free meal at the game.