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Cleaning up 49 tons of trash after first home game, University details plan for game day waste management

| Monday, September 30, 2019

When fans file out of the stadium after a Notre Dame home football game, the joy of victory — or sorrow of defeat — isn’t the only consequence of the weekend’s festivities. The pep rallies, tailgates and the games themselves all generate huge amounts of trash, requiring an immense logistical effort to clean up and properly dispose of.

During the weekend of Notre Dame’s first home game this year against the University of New Mexico, 49 tons of waste — 18 of which were sorted for recycling — were collected from campus, senior director of sustainability and logistics Carol Mullaney said in an email.

The cleanliness of the campus environment and the stadium are of great importance to the Notre Dame administration, she said.

“We want to ensure a safe and pleasant environment for everyone — our regular guests (students, faculty, staff and alumni) and all of those visiting us on game weekends,” Mullaney said. “There are several planning meetings throughout the year and ahead of each home game. A team of leaders from the different service areas involved with the stadium-related activities walks through the entire stadium three hours before each game and then throughout the game to ensure safety, cleanliness and that things are in the correct place.”

Senior director of building services Chris Hatfield said in an email that Notre Dame staff members do all planning for waste disposal during home games, but due to the scope and volume of the work, outside help is needed.

“The cleaning crew is comprised of contractors [from] B&B Maintenance and Great Lakes Property Maintenance (GLPM),” he said. “B&B Maintenance will have approximately 50 staff in the stadium on game day providing custodial service. GLPM has dozens of staff removing waste from the stadium and parking lots on game day.”

All waste from the football games and other campus events is transported to a collection yard on the northeast side of campus, Hatfield said, where it is removed by the University’s waste and recycling service provider, Waste Management. Waste is collected from the stadium concourse and surrounding area several times over the weekend — before and after the game — and the cleaning crews work to ensure all trash is removed quickly, he said.

“The parking lots and campus grounds are clean by Sunday morning,” Hatfield said. “Waste from inside the stadium and any remaining concourse waste is usually removed from the stadium by the end of the day Monday.”

Mullaney said the University has ramped up recycling and composting efforts in recent years, including offering trash bags of different colors to help distinguish recyclable and non-recyclable waste, and using student volunteers to distribute the bags to tailgaters.

“Within the stadium, we are trying to collect empty water bottles only for recycling at football games,” she said. “The other item that is recyclable is the souvenir drink cup, but most people keep those as intended — as a souvenir — so very few are placed in waste containers. Our concessionaire, Levy, has introduced compostable containers this year for most food products. Compostable products are produced with less energy and will break down more easily in the landfill, but they are designated for the landfill containers. Currently, in our area of northern Indiana, there is no industrial composting facility.”

While Notre Dame does not currently have on-site waste sorting for events, Mullaney said, material is sorted off-campus.

“[Waste marked as recyclable] is collected and placed in a separate recycling container and then picked up by Waste Management who takes it to a sorting facility to determine whether it is clean enough for recycling,” she said. “If contaminated, it will go to a landfill.”

Mullaney said there are global challenges with recycling, like contamination, that the staff has to deal with.

“The current challenges with recycling, which are global in nature, have greatly constricted the amount of material that is accepted by recyclers,” she said. “Contamination is the biggest challenge that everyone throughout the U.S. is facing, so we continue to work with many external organizations and talk to other universities to explore new ways to address the problem.”

Despite the challenges, Mullaney said the University is committed to providing a clean campus environment during game days.

“It’s important to know that there are many people, administrators in operational roles and in athletics, who place a high priority on the safe, effective collection of both trash and recycling throughout game weekends,” she said. “Much time and effort is spent on this. The working crews do a very efficient job in handling what is a very difficult job.”

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About Andrew Cameron

Andrew is a senior from Orange County, California. He is an associate news editor at the Observer, and is majoring in Biological Sciences and English. While he has greatly enjoyed his time at Notre Dame, during the winter months he often wonders why he ever left the perennial warmth of Southern California.

Contact Andrew