When it reaches full capacity on college game days, Memorial Stadium holds enough fans to become the ninth-largest city in Missouri.
For many of these fans, college game day is a sacred tradition, one that includes tailgating.
With tailgating comes a variety of logistical problems, including the need for space, parking and a way to handle the massive amounts of garbage.
Since its founding by Sustain Mizzou in 2005, the Tiger Tailgate Recycling project has prevented 122.9 tons of recyclable material from ending up littered across campus or in a nearby landfill.
Tiger Tailgate Recycling was founded in collaboration with Mizzou Athletics, Sustain Mizzou and Anheuser-Busch. N.H. Scheppers Distributing Co., a distributor of Anheuser-Busch, began by donating plastic containers for tailgaters to discard waste.
MU eventually received a grant from a local waste distributor, and now uses more than 200 containers on game days, said Steve Burdic, sustainability coordinator for Campus Facilities.
In addition to placing containers around campus, Sustain Mizzou organizes volunteers to help pass out waste bags to tailgaters and fans.
Three leaders, including junior Tom Laughlin, help with Sustain Mizzou’s efforts on game days.
For a typical home game, Laughlin begins planning a week in advance.
He sends out a signup sheet through Google Drive and also through the Sustainability Office’s newsletter. In the middle of the week, Laughlin goes shopping for food for the volunteers, and finishes the week by emailing reminders to volunteers about the plan for the following day.
On game day, Sustain Mizzou begins setting up about four hours prior to kickoff. Volunteers begin by moving materials from the sustainability office to Faurot Field and setting up signs and checking bins. The effort is usually over by the time the game kicks off.
“I like it,” Laughlin said. “My freshman and sophomore year, I liked going out and seeing the tailgaters. They really enjoy seeing the volunteers.”
Senior Chelsea Kaplan frequently tailgates in parking Lot X and says that the effort is greatly appreciated.
“I think lot of people that wouldn’t necessarily think to recycle are made more aware,” Kaplan said. “They have bags handed to them so it’s hard for them not to recycle, and you see a lot less trash.”
In addition to the immediate benefits for MU, Burdic said he also thinks Tiger Tailgate Recycling sets a good precedent for sustainability efforts everywhere.
“These tailgaters are from all over the state,” Burdic said. “They’re not just local people. When they go home we hope they say, ‘If they can recycle at a game like that, we can do it at our high school.’ It’s the biggest example of recycling we have here. It sets a great example.”
“It’s good to see how much we recycle at games,” Laughlin said. “It numbers in the tons, and it’s unbelievable to think that it all could have ended up in a landfill as opposed to being recycled.”