The weight of waste

USF student volunteers hope to give the phrase “waste time” a positive meaning this Saturday, as they collect trash and recyclables during festivities for the Homecoming game against Syracuse.

From 10 a.m. to noon, students will walk around Raymond James Stadium’s tailgating area, pulling a 96-gallon wheeled container and collecting cans and plastic and glass bottles.

Participants will wear bright green “Go Green, Go Bulls” T-shirts and hand out Chipotle gift cards to recycling tailgaters while supplies last. After the game, they will go through the stands to pick up leftover recyclable waste.

Saturday’s cleanup is USF’s first entry into the 2010 EPA Game Day Challenge, a contest sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in which 87 colleges across the country compete to see which one can recycle the most waste at an October home game.

The event is also sponsored by USF’s Office of Sustainability.

Joseph Michalsky, a sophomore  majoring in computer sciences and civil engineering, said this will mark his first time recycling at a sporting event and he is hoping to see up to 24 USF students participating.

“This is an initiative to promote more sustainable practices in the USF community,” Michalsky said.

According to the EPA website, the goals of the competition are to reduce the amount of waste generated at college football games, increase community participation in waste reductions programs and raise awareness of these programs.

The deadline for colleges to sign up is today, with other participating universities including the University of Central Florida.

“USF is kind of behind the curve in sustainability, but we are hoping to catch up,” said Michalsky, who is also the Student Government Chief Sustainability Officer and a fall semester scholar of the Office of Sustainability.

After the game, the Tampa Department of Solid Waste will collect the waste recycled by the volunteers to report the day’s haul.

Michalsky said seeing the actual data of the cleanup’s results might help guide future USF recycling events.

“Next week, we will know the statistics from the total attendance at the game and the total weight of recycled waste,” he said.

The college with the highest ranking will be announced in November, according to the EPA website, and schools are graded by criteria including the least amount of waste generated per attendee.

Assistant Director of the Office of Sustainability Nina Biermann said the event is more of an experiment than a competition.

“The ultimate goal is to come up with a waste reduction plan and complete it successfully so that it can be adopted as normal practice for future games,” she said.

Biermann, also a graduate student majoring in marketing, said all students can participate — even if they aren’t the ones hauling waste containers.

“There are many ways to help, Biermann said. “If students are tailgating, they can create a pile of cans and plastic bottles to be easily picked up by the volunteers. They can also place their recyclable waste in the recycle cans.”

The Tampa Bay Sierra Club is working in partnership with the Office of Sustainability in the challenge.

Erin Lennox, a senior majoring in environmental science and policy and a Sierra Club intern, said the Sierra Club is celebrating 20 years of hosting its own Raymond James Stadium cleanups for Bulls and Tampa Bay Buccaneers games.

“I was told about this event through Sierra Club,” Lennox said. “I recycled at the game last week and the Saturday before that.”

Lennox said it isn’t an inconvenience for her to recycle while everyone else is partying and avidly watching the football game.

“It’s not a big deal because you kind of get the whole party environment and it is still fun,” Lennox said. “Usually, students are very cooperative and enthusiastic when they see us recycling.”

Biermann said the event also tries to give volunteers their own football and tailgating lunch experiences.

“Chipotle will also feed volunteers after the game, and the athletic department allowed me to reserve tickets to the game for the volunteers as well,” Biermann said.

Though tickets have already been reserved for the first wave of students who signed up as volunteers, any student is still welcome to join the recycling team.

For more information about participating in the cleanup, contact Biermann at