As Blaine Bengtson walked around outside Memorial Stadium following the Kansas University football game against Rice last month, he didn’t like what he saw in the trash cans.
“So many just plastic bottles and things that were totally recyclable were being thrown away,” Bengtson said.
For Bengtson, a KU junior from Salina, it was an assessment that confirmed the need for a project on which he was already hard at work: a new KU football gameday recycling program, which will kick off at Saturday’s homecoming game against Texas.
He’s the director of Recycle & Blue, KU, a group that received about $7,700 from KU’s Student Senate this year to encourage tailgaters and other football fans to put their bottles and cans in recycling bins rather than the trash.
Nearly all of those funds will go toward providing those recycling bins in the first place. The group has bought 60 of them that a group of volunteers will distribute throughout the tailgating areas, outside the stadium entrances and on Campanile Hill to the south.
Bengtson, who works as an intern at KU’s Center for Sustainability and hopes to work in environmental policy after graduation, took charge of the project after Student Senate leaders proposed a new gameday recycling effort.
Many other universities around the Big 12 and the country have programs encouraging football fans to recycle, Bengtson said.
“We figure we need to be getting on board,” he said.
Bengtson said he’s hoping to gather a group of around 50 student, faculty and staff volunteers to swarm the areas outside the stadium. In addition to setting out recycling bins, they’ll visit tailgating groups with bags in hand to collect plastic bottles and aluminum cans, and they’ll hand out hats, can koozies and other promotional items.
Student Body President Hannah Bolton said she thinks the program will go a long way in changing the habits of tailgaters, and it was well worth the funding it received, which comes from student fees collected each semester.
“There really hasn’t been any group that’s really stepped up and made an impact on gamedays,” Bolton said.
She said she hoped the effort would expand to basketball games, where perhaps it could help push fans to throw cans and bottles into bins rather than leaving them on the bleacher floors for clean-up crews to gather, and the Kansas Relays later this school year.
Bengtson said he’d like the program to expand beyond tailgating and move inside the football stadium, and eventually have a presence at every KU athletic event to get people recycling.
Also contributing to the effort are KU Athletics, KU Recycling and the group Cans for the Community, he said.
Bolton said the goal is for the program to become a fixture at KU sporting events.
“This is something that’s very long overdue,” Bolton said.