USC Sustainability works to reduce tailgate waste

Marcelle Saulnier | Daily Trojan

Just three years away from its 2020 sustainability goal, USC is taking steps to further its waste diversion program through a partnership with student organizations like Clover, Environmental Student Assembly and the Environmental Core during football tailgates.

The Tailgate Waste Diversion Program, which will continue throughout the football season, has seen a 65 percent increase in waste diversion, since its implementation in 2012.

The Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum adopted the Zero Waste Policy as an annual endeavor for all sporting events in Fall 2015.

According to the USC Sustainability website, approximately 14 percent of waste produced on campus can be recycled. However, the website states that after every game, several thousands of disposable utensils, decorations and plastic cups litter the campus.

Olivia Pearson, the co-executive director of the Environmental Student Assembly,  said the tailgate program spreads awareness about sustainability tactics on campus.  

“[Student organizations have been helping] volunteers come out … going around and collecting recyclables, trying to divert them from the main waste stream, as well as educating fans and tailgaters about how to properly recycle [and] what is and isn’t recyclable,” Pearson said.

USC Sustainability is also planning to switch waste vendors, from Athens Services, which sorts recyclables at their facilities, to Republic Services. This means that recyclables will be sorted on site at USC.

“We’re going to see more recycling bins coming to campus starting this semester and progressively spreading across the entire campus over the next few subsequent semesters,” Pearson said.

Jessica Sara Cohen, who administers the Waste and Recycling program, works with USC Sustainability to increase student engagement with the tailgate initiative.

“Our Tailgate Waste Diversion program works [through] a partnership between Facilities Management and USC Sustainability,” Cohen said. “A student coordinator with USC Sustainability, who works directly with the student groups to gather volunteers.”

The Zero Waste Tailgate Diversion Program largely depends on students and volunteers to increase its visibility and efficiency.

“With the help of our student volunteers, we set up recycling and compost bins at the different tailgates around campus,” said Jack Wilson, a student worker at USC Sustainability. “Zero waste basically means we qualify for 90 percent of our trash to get either composted or recycled. With the help of our volunteers, we’re basically going around and trying to educate people, give them the option to recycle, get as many bins out there, and increase the visibility of this [movement].”

Though Pearson said it has been a difficult process to recruit volunteers for the program, the organization will continue to aim to reduce the number of recyclable and compostable items in landfills.

“I have seen an increase in support from students volunteering for this program, or people asking me more questions about what they do [in order] to volunteer, which I think is a very positive sign that we are going in the right direction … I think we just need to create more dialogue around it [to increase] awareness for this program,” Pearson said.