Anytime you get more than 100,000 people together in one place, you are bound to have issues. I found this out firsthand when I went to the Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority’s recycling building after this season’s first home football game at Beaver Stadium. I wanted to help my co-workers sort the materials from the recycling bags provided at the tailgates.
There was such an exorbitant amount of trash in the blue recycling bags that I posted pictures of the contents to Facebook. I thought that by posting, word would spread and positive change would follow.
Fast forward to a few weeks later when I received pictures of the football tailgate lots, following the game, littered with trash. Goodness gracious. It seemed that we were not the only ones dealing with improper trash disposal — Penn State was too. So, I took it upon myself to post pictures from the tailgates as well.
The pictures of the littered tailgate lots sparked immediate anger and frustration from local residents and Facebook followers. The post quickly went viral spreading far and wide, gathering more than 4,500 shares, more than 6,500 comments and nearly 625,000 views. The news stations were calling, newspapers and radio stations were contacting us for interviews — everyone wanted to do a story. You couldn’t go anywhere without hearing about the trash problem at football games.
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I wondered if all the publicity would do any good? Would behavior really change? To find out, I rode through the tailgate lots early Sunday morning following the Indiana game. And guess what? The lots didn’t look too bad. There were no huge trouble spots and for the most part, people bagged up their trash and recycling for the workers to collect. I left the lots that morning feeling pretty optimistic.
I then wondered, if the tailgate lots were better, would the contents of the blue recycling bags be any better? I walked up to the recycling building on the Monday morning following the Indiana game to ask the guys if there was any noticeable difference in the amount of trash they saw in the blue recycling bags. Unfortunately, nothing had changed. The recycling bags still contained trash ... a lot of trash.
This is why I write. I will not give up the fight. Somehow, someway, we have to get the word out that the blue bags at the tailgate lots are not for trash. Blue bags should only contain bottles and cans. Clear bags are provided for trash. The bags themselves have the words “Recycling” or “Trash” written directly on them.
Again, clear bags are for trash. Blue bags are for recycling (bottles and cans). It really is that simple. “Come on, Nittany Nation — Penn State Proud!”
Amy Schirf is education coordinator for the Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.