A view of a tailgate after the Penn State-Georgia State game at Beaver Stadium. Photo provided
A view of a tailgate after the Penn State-Georgia State game at Beaver Stadium. Photo provided

Penn State

Penn State, recycling authority step up education for tailgate cleanup

By Sarah Rafacz


September 28, 2017 05:18 PM

Tailgating is a time-honored tradition at Penn State home football games. But a Facebook post by the county’s recycling authority showing the trash tailgaters leave behind sparked outrage in the community.

The Sept. 18 post went “viral,” said Amy Schirf, education coordinator for Centre County Recycling & Refuse Authority.

To date, it has about 1,600 reactions, 4,500 shares and 1,100 comments.

“How do you just stand there and just throw things on the ground?” Schirf said. “I can’t comprehend when there’s free trash bags everywhere, how you can just stand in a spot all day like that just stepping on trash? Like how could that be fun? … and I do feel bad, there are a few people that are giving a bad name to the whole Penn State community.”

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Free clear trash bags and blue recycling bags are available throughout the tailgating lots surrounding Beaver Stadium.

But people are still leaving trash out, she said.

Ryan McCaughey said when crews go to the tailgate lots on Sundays to clean up, they’ll find chairs and tables still set with food.

“It’s amazing that people just leave all this stuff,” said McCaughey, manager of grounds and equipment for the Penn State Office of Physical Plant.

About 75 people spend eight hours, at least, cleaning up after home football games, McCaughey said.

When people do use provided recycling bags, they’re not always doing it correctly.

CCRRA, which gets the blue bag material from the games, received more than 25 tons from the Penn State-Pitt game, Schirf said.

It took the employees three full days to go through it because there’s so much trash, she said.

And it’s not only trash — they’ve found diapers, water bottles full of urine, raw chicken, Schirf said.

“Penn State has noticed there was a problem and is jumping on board to see what they can do to help it,” Schirf said.

Intercollegiate Athletics has partnered with OPP, the Sustainability Institute and CCRRA to help educate fans and promote recycling.

For the remainder of this season’s home games, about 50 Student Tailgate Ambassadors will walk around the lots and hand out recycling and trash bags and explain what goes in each.

It’s a good time to remind fans about the recycling initiatives and being environmentally responsible, said Jeff Nelson, Penn State’s associate athletic director for strategic communications.

There used to be a student group that did something similar, but it disbanded a few years ago, McCaughey said, and he’d been trying to find a student group to take over for them without success.

People are listening now, but it’s been “a long road,” he said.

Penn State has a variety of sustainability initiatives. Both McCaughey and Schirf pointed out that Ohio State has a zero-waste stadium.

“Do we really want Ohio State to beat us?” Schirf said.

Sarah Rafacz: 814-231-4619, @SarahRafacz

What goes where

Blue bags: plastic bottles, glass, metal and paper

Clear bags: non-recyclables

Securely close the bags and leave them where you parked.