Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority Encourages Fans to Recycle at Tailgates

Story posted September 23, 2018 in CommRadio, News by Tyler Olson

While James Franklin and the Penn State football team look to improve over last year and make the College Football Playoffs, there’s another part of football in Happy Valley that’s already looking better than last season – recycling at tailgates.

In 2017, waste management became an obvious issue on game days, said Centre County Recycling and Refuse Authority deputy director and recycling coordinator, Joanne Shafer.

“We really did notice last year that not only was recycling improperly done,” she said. “There was a lot of recycling in the trash and there was an awful lot of litter left behind.”

Those flaws caused big problems. Penn State’s Office of Physical Plant needed to pay workers overtime to clean up the litter. Recyclables being put in the trash were going to the landfill. Recycling bags full of food, horse manure and other trash became impossible to sort, and therefore worthless, said Brenda Hampton, quality control and shipping supervisor for the Recycling and Refuse Authority.

“If the bag looks like it has a lot of garbage in it with the recycling it does get thrown in the trash,” she said.

Shafer said a confusing system and a lack of knowledge about recycling at tailgates were to blame for the issues. 

“There had been no education done since about 1997,” she said. “The decision was made among all of the partners to go back to the basics and say, ‘let’s recycle bottles and cans.’”

With a simpler system and help from partners including Penn State’s OPP, Intercollegiate Athletics and the Sustainability Institute on campus, Shafer and others began an aggressive education push from social media to local radio to season ticket holders’ emails. Franklin even recorded a message for local radio, telling fans to recycle.

So far, Shafer says the results have been promising. But the biggest test of the year is still coming up. The Nittany Lions’ matchup against the Ohio State Buckeyes next week, which has major ramifications for the Big Ten East, is anticipated to be the most attended home game of the year.

Additionally, kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. Fans will have almost twelve hours from when the tailgate lots open to accumulate trash – recyclable or otherwise – at the tailgate fields. Shafer is still optimistic.

“I personally have worked the picking line in the recycling building for both games that we’ve had so far,” said Shafer. “There’s still some things in it that don’t belong in there, but by far it has improved.”



Tyler Olson is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism and political science. To contact him, email tso5043@psu.edu.