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Friday, October 22, 2021

EPA awards UC Davis in football stadium recycling competition

At a home football game on Oct. 23, 2010, Aggie Stadium’s fans produced 900 pounds of trash, only 90 of which went to a landfill. The rest was either recycled or composted.

UC Davis hosted a Plan Green Conference and Showcase on Oct. 16, teaching University of California event planners about sustainability and how to host zero-waste events. At the conference, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) presented UC Davis with first place in highest waste diversion rate for the home game.

The EPA measures diversion rate by the largest overall recycling rate. With 89.8 percent of waste diversion, UC Davis was 20 percent higher than any other participating school.

In an effort to promote waste reduction, the EPA held the national football WasteWise Game Day competition that compares universities in waste minimization, greenhouse gas reduction and recycling and organics reduction. The participating schools diverted more than 500,000 pounds of waste, which prevented 940 metric tons of carbon dioxide from being released.

In an EPA press release, Jared Blumenfeld, the EPA’s regional administrator, applauded UC Davis’ goal of attaining a zero-waste football stadium by 2020.

“The team colors may be Aggie blue and gold, but by reducing their stadium’s environmental footprint, they are also very green,” Blumenfeld said.

Lin King, manager for the campus Waste Reduction and Recycling program, said UC Davis could still make improvements to achieving zero waste at Aggie Stadium.

“Being part of the challenge gave us a snapshot in time of how we’re doing in comparison to other colleges around the country – and proves that we do really lead in this area,” King said in a press release.

William Klein, senior nature and culture major and member of the Campus Center for the Environment (CCE), said having compostable materials and bins at the stadium helps to reduce the amount of waste.

“I think it’s outstanding. It just shows that it’s possible to scale individual efforts all the way up to football stadiums,” Klein said.

During the challenge, recycling staff and volunteer students monitored the waste and helped fans choose the correct containers for their trash. Waste Reduction and Recycling, along with the CCE, labels trash bins campus wide to indicate which waste goes where.

As a member of CCE, Klein works with Memorial Union and the Coffee House to promote awareness with more effective trash bin signs.

“We’re getting feedback and trying to expand from the MU to the rest of campus. We’re basically trying to get as much [appropriate waste] in the compost bin as we can,” Klein said.

More recently, UC Davis has engaged in Recyclemania, a campuswide effort for recycling that started Feb. 6 and ends on April 2. The university is competing with over 600 schools to compare recycling rates, amount of recyclables per capita, total amount of recyclables and the least amount of trash per capita. Klein suggested students recycle and use compost bins at school and at home.

“The number one thing regular students can do is to pay attention to what they do with their own waste,” Klein said.

In campus dining eateries, students can place food waste, paper napkins, paper plates and other compostable products in the compost bin. In the recycling bins at Davis, students should only place number one and two plastics, along with paper, glass and cans. Anything else, including straws and coffee lids, goes into the landfill bin.

CCE also has online guidelines and order forms for student groups holding a zero-waste event. Ordering compostable materials through CCE can be cheaper than Costco and the products are tax-free.

“Our next step and main focus is zero waste targeting the Greek system,” Klein said.

Klein suggested students look up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a large body of water containing concentrated marine debris due to ocean currents, to see the effects of their waste on the environment.

GRACE BENEFIELD can be reached at features@theaggie.org.

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