Sports stadiums and entertainment venues produce a large amount of waste material each year, and when it comes to public and private grade schools, managing and reducing that waste can be a challenge. Not only can it be costly, but waste removal often goes directly to the landfill, instead of being recycled or composted. Is this the best example to be setting for the next generation of environmental stewards?

With the 2017-2018 school year quickly approaching, many of the schools that we service here at Rubicon are looking for ways to reduce their footprints — not only in their day-to-day school facility waste, but also in their sports stadiums, courts and fields. From fall football to spring basketball, volleyball, track and more, here are a few ways schools can start to tackle waste during the fall sports season and beyond.

Identify the goal. Whether or not your school has set campus-wide waste and sustainability goals, it’s important to define the goals specific to afterschool sports and game days. Sports are seasonal, which can cause dramatic fluctuations in waste month by month. Game days tend to attract hundreds, if not thousands, of non-student fans who may not know your goals or recycling practices. Some schools have set out on an ambitious campus-wide Zero Waste journey, while others are just now taking their first step toward campus-wide, single-stream recycling containers. Determine what’s reasonable, feasible and within budget for your school, and consult your waste and recycling partner for options that fit your needs. Once the goal is set, it’s time to rally the team and fans to attain it.

Set the rules of the game. You cannot reach your goal without the whole team knowing the rules of the game. In this case, signage and bin availability are everything. If you’re setting up recycling bins, it’s important to put a bin next to every trash can – yes, every trash can. Fans are in fun-mode and are very unlikely to seek out a specific bin for their waste, especially in a crowd. It’s also just as important to label the bins with both the words and pictures of what can and cannot be recycled. The same goes for signage on composting and trash bins. Recycle Across America has perfected a consistent labeling system that registers with consumers and helps to keep bins from getting contaminated. Ask your waste and recycling partner for what items are recyclable or compostable for your site

Be a team player. Often schools and venues have long-standing supplier relationships, particularly for concession stand items like food trays, cups and cutlery. Sync up with your vendor manager and assess what could be recycled or composted, rather than sent to landfill. If possible, use those product pictures on your bin labels to make it more clear for fans – indicating what kind of waste goes where. If you find your current concession items are not recycle or compost-friendly, consider having a conversation about alternative materials. Often the same supplier will have multiple options. Another option is swapping out select items to help meet your specific goals. World Centric is just one example of compostable cups and cutlery that are available as an alternative to plastic or Styrofoam.

Engage the sidelines. Use gamedays to rally students and fans around recycling. Make it a shared win and something the fans can work toward all season long. Perhaps post a meter to measure percent-to-goal on pounds recycled or composted – and therefore diverted from landfills. Host half-time contests on the court or field with a fan “recycling toss” or a messy “sort the trash” competition. Consider hosting recycling collection nights or fundraisers for bringing in aluminum cans.  And be sure to make announcements throughout every game, reminding fans to recycle in the appropriate bins and to help keep your school and the environment clean.

These are just a few ways schools across the country are rethinking waste when it comes to school sports season. There are many ways to win with waste, it’s just a matter of finding the right solution for your school.