A scrappy team of rookies swept into Memorial Stadium Oct. 25 to eliminate waste, and they left little in their wake. The national Gameday Recycling Challenge in December announced that the Illini zero-waste event during the Homecoming football game in Oct. placed fourth in the Big 10 with a 60 percent diversion rate of ' trash ' from landfills. That was over nine tons of trash that was composted, reused, or recycled from the game. About 150 volunteers and several university departments collaborated on the successful U of I challenge, which is designed to educate students and the community on the benefits of recycling and composting everyday garbage.
Among Big Ten rivals, the Illini finished second in organics reduction -- or capturing food wastes for composting. Illinois scored third place in recycling. Funding and logistical support for the zero-waste effort came from a group of green-minded departments on campus: the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center (part of the Prairie Research Institute), the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics, the Liberal Arts and Sciences Honors Program, the Facilities & Services Department, University Housing, and the Institute for Sustainability, Energy and Environment. "We were pleased with our results for our first time," said Bart Bartels, technical assistance engineer at the Illinois Sustainable Technology Center, which coordinated the zero-waste event. "We also learned a few things to improve our performance next year," he added.
Campus is now working with Memorial Stadium vendors to encourage the use of more recyclable materials for game concessions, Bartels explained. The zero-waste team was able to count 1,000s of normally non-recyclable plastic cups in their recycling totals because they were granulated and processed at ISTC to produce new petroleum-based products. Next year the team will also seek to recycle tons of glass bottles generated by alcohol sales in the premium seating areas of the stadium. Bartels predicted that the 2015 gridiron recycling competition should be able to divert more than 70 percent of gameday trash away from landfills by making a few adjustments. Such events are important to demonstrate that most of what we now bury in landfills can actually be reused, creating a more sustainable society, Bartels stressed. He cited a survey of community awareness by a U of I Collaborative Leadership class which found that eight out of 10 respondents said they knew nothing about composting of food scraps. The Game Day Challenge is designed to improve that awareness in our community.
For more information about the Big Ten standings for the Gameday Recycling Challenge visit: http://gamedaychallenge.org/participating-schools/2014-results/.