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Game day aftermath costs money, time

Justin Tardiff | Friday, October 17, 2003

After the echoes have been awoken and returned to rest, the teams have left the field and the Sea of Green has drained out of the gates, one sound still whispers through Notre Dame Stadium: the rustling of foil wrappers and the hollow sound of empty plastic cups rolling across concrete.

In other words, after everyone leaves a Notre Dame football game, one thing that is left behind is garbage – and lots of it. Outside the stadium the situation is much the same. Trash bins in the parking lots overflow with aluminum cans and litter of all kinds is sprinkled throughout campus.

The University spends a lot of money and time on the complex process of returning Notre Dame to a clean, litter-free campus after a home football game. Several University departments, including Building Services, Landscape Services and the Athletic Department, collaborate with a multitude of outside organizations to make the clean-up efficient and effective.

According to Dan Brazo, athletic facilities manager at Notre Dame Stadium, the clean-up process begins well before the game is over. “After the first series, the stadium crew goes around the outside of the stadium and collects barrels and that trash is compacted,” he said. “Immediately [after the game], we have a contractor come in and they hand pick [up] all the trash.”

Brazo said that morning crews come in Sunday with leaf blowers to blow the smaller pieces of garbage, such as peanut shells and candy wrappers, into large condensed piles. The crews spend about five hours cleaning up on Sunday, starting at 7 a.m. and usually finishing around noon.

Best Sweeping Specialists Inc. is one of the several companies contracted to assist in the football weekend clean-ups. Tim Skinner, president of the company, said he does not have exact figures on how much garbage his company collects from an average game, but he estimated the amount to be between 18 and 24 cubic yards of material. Best Sweeping is responsible for cleaning up the area between the inner wall of the stadium and Moose Krause Drive, which encircles the stadium.

“[The clean-up] is divided up. Quite a few people work on picking it up,” Skinner said. “But in terms of litter, it’s one of the biggest jobs we do.” Skinner said his company’s portion of the clean-up usually takes between five and six hours on Sunday morning, but that varies depending on weather conditions. Best Sweeping also sweeps the inside of the stadium prior to the games to clear out trash that was missed from the previous game, as well as leaves and other debris.

Due to limited manpower and the large volume of trash produced by the football crowds, most of the material is sent to a landfill rather than being recycled. “There’s so much trash emitted from a game, there’s really no way to sort it,” said Brazo.

According to Alan Bigger, director of Building Services, the concession stands at the stadium use large amounts of cardboard and most of that is recycled, but nothing else is sorted for recycling.

Bigger said his department attempted to institute a game day recycling program during the 1998 season, but the project was unsuccessful.  For each home game they set up 75 cardboard recycling containers around the stadium, clearly marked for plastic bottles and aluminum cans and contained only one round hole. Bigger said the hope was to catch recyclable items before fans entered the stadium, but almost all of the containers were completely contaminated with food waste and other non-recyclables. The venture lost a significant amount of money because none of the collected recyclables could be sold, and the department has not attempted game day recycling since then.

Bigger said Building Services would be willing to try recycling again, but budget constraints mandate that volunteers would be needed to help with sorting the material and transporting the receptacles to a central location after the game was over.

Pat O’Hara, manager of Warehouse Services in the Building Services department, is in charge of the recycling program on campus and said his crew already handles a larger than usual amount of recyclables on football weekends just from residence halls and academic buildings.

“It’s a massive operation,” O’Hara said in reference to handling the recyclables on football weekends. “That’s basically all we do all day Monday.”

Recyclables are not unloaded during the weekends because the bins look unsightly on loading docks and most people do not work on the weekends. O’Hara said his crew prepares for the job by working from 5 a.m. until 9 a.m. on the morning before a home game, placing trucks around campus in strategic locations like the Hammes Bookstore and the Morris Inn.

Bigger said that a good portion of the recyclable aluminum from games ends up getting recycled through what he called a “subterranean operation.” He said community groups like Boy Scouts and church groups travel through the parking lots after the game has begun, collecting the aluminum cans. The cans can then be sold to the recycling center near downtown South Bend. Many fans also collect the plastic souvenir cups inside the stadium, he said.