While the University of Nebraska values the product it places on the football field very highly, it has long ignored what is left behind in the stands. After each home game stands are strewn with trash and recyclable items that are left from concessions sold during the game. Recycling containers inside and around Memorial Stadium are inadequate to hold all the bottles consumed during the game, leaving fans with limited options for disposing of their bottles.
UNL holds a contract with the student ROTC for each game to collect all trash and recyclables left in the stands within seven hours of the conclusion of each game. All of this material is thrown away, as the ROTC is not contractually obligated to separate the materials, nor are they granted access to a provider to haul these recyclables to a local site.
This situation could be remedied by renegotiating the ROTC’s contract to include a clause requiring them to collect recyclables prior to waste material. The chancellor could easily make this happen by mandating that athletics be responsible for the collection of ALL recyclable materials in the stadium, or by directing the institution of a new program directed at eliminating this oversight.
Volunteers can only do so much, although great efforts have been made for the last three years to collect plastic materials from within the stadium during one select home football game. At each occurrence, volunteers were able to divert over 6,500 lbs of plastics from the landfill. Accomplishing this required weeks of coordination and recruitment, and thus is not feasible for seven home games during the fall.
Over the last three years, UNL Landscape Services, students, and the Lincoln community have all gone to great lengths to ensure as much of the recyclable material used at Husker Football games is recycled as possible. For three years students and community members have participated in the UNL Landscape Services’ “Go Green for Big Red” pregame recycling program, in which participants educate tailgaters about UNL’s commitment to making the campus green and clean, while distributing and collecting green bags for recycling.
With the tens of thousands of pounds of recyclable materials volunteers have collected in just the last few years we feel that UNL Chancellor Harvey Perlman holds a responsibility to support our efforts, just as we have worked to advance sustainability at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln.
On behalf of Sustain UNL and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln student body, as well as the Lincoln community, we ask the University to institute postgame recycling of all plastic materials left inside Memorial Stadium at the conclusion of every Husker football game.
UNL has emphasized their commitment to forwarding sustainability efforts, yet the campus lags behind most, if not all, of its Big 10 counterparts in the creation of a sustainable campus. One of the easiest and most effective steps that can be taken right now is the recycling of plastic materials left in the stands after football games: materials that are normally thrown away, but can easily be recycled. Recycling these materials would reduce costs to the university and be one of the first steps toward greater sustainability.
Many other Big 10 institutions not only exceed UNL’s progress in sustainable efforts, but are national leaders in the field among other colleges and universities. While Ohio State has implemented a zero waste stadium and Michigan State is already ranked as a top five sustainable campus, Nebraska has yet to implement even some of the most basic measures, as seen by their conscious willingness to pay others to throw away plastic materials.
For the past three years, coalitions of student organizations have worked in conjunction with Landscape Services and other entities to collect and recycle plastic materials inside the stadium at the conclusion of one game per season. At each occurrence over 6,500 lbs of materials were diverted from the landfill.
The student voice has spoken through action, and now we need our Chancellor to hear our demands and keep over 40,000 lbs of plastics out of the trash.