Trash Tacklers program reduces waste during 2015 football season

Eunice Lee, Reporter

The Office of Sustainability spearheaded a student recycling ambassador program during the 2015 football season that worked to reduce the amount of waste during tailgates.

In partnership with Northwestern Athletics and with a sponsorship from Advanced Disposal, a solid waste collection company, the Trash Tacklers program collected trash at five of the seven home games, beginning with the Sept. 26 game against Ball State University. The aim was to increase awareness and recycling collection in the tailgate lots, said Julie Cahillane, the University’s manager of sustainability and resource management.

Sporting bright green t-shirts that said “Trash Tacklers” in block lettering, students carried bags to collect cans for about three hours before kick-off.

“It was so much more fun than I had expected,” said Communication senior Shaina Wagner. “And my favorite thing that we did was when a big group would say, ‘Can we have one of your bags? We’ll recycle our cans.’”

For every home game, a different student organization — ranging from club sports to theater groups — volunteered to work as Trash Tacklers. In exchange for their work, the organizations received a $300 financial stipend to be used for philanthropy or expenses.

The stipend, Wagner said, was a great way to earn money for “Boomer’s Story,” the Vertigo Productions play she directed in the fall.

“I view (Trash Tacklers) as a win-win-win situation because SustainNU gets their name and brand to parts of the campus that it doesn’t normally reach, the organization who provides volunteers gets a financial stipend and then tailgaters don’t have to walk very far to throw out their cans of beers,” Wagner said.

McCormick sophomore Remy Traglio said she helped clean trash with NU Women’s Club Basketball and realized the benefit in serving others, despite challenging weather conditions at times.

“It was cold, but nice just because I know how wasteful students are at tailgates in general, and even though it was dreary, it was nice that I was doing something that could help clean the waste,” Traglio said.

Cahillane emphasized that the volume of waste created at football games and at tailgates is huge, especially compared to other athletic events where the games might not last as long and tailgating is not the norm.

“I think it’s great for students to interact with the fans and alumni and kind of get that sense of appreciation as well,” Cahillane said. “In reverse, the (alumni) really enjoy it because they don’t interact with students that often.”

Although plans for next year’s program are yet to be confirmed, Cahillane said she hopes to see the program again in the future.

“I would love for the program to continue, and would love for it to get bigger,” Wagner said. “We didn’t have that many people on our day — I think we had six or seven — but there are so many tailgaters, so if we could expand to 15 to 20 people that would be super helpful.”

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