The sustainability department launched its first Rethink Waste event Saturday at the Richmond-Albany football game with cross-department help from athletics, facilities and student volunteers.

Dozens of volunteers helped football fans sort trash as they went to throw it away as part of a national GameDay Recycling Challenge. More than 8,217 football fans created over 2,500 pounds of trash, recycling and compost, Christine Pereira, compliance coordinator of the athletics department, said.

Volunteers helped divert 57 percent of this waste from landfills by depositing the waste in either recycling or composting bins. The University of Richmond has a goal of reaching an 80 percent diversion rate by 2020, Pereira said.

Rob Andrejewski, director of sustainability, said he was excited to be able to call from multiple campus departments for the program including athletics, facilities and the campus body. This is just the start for the campus to begin to rethink its ideas about waste and where it goes, he said.

Rachael Connors, assistant business manager of the athletics department, said that participating in the GameDay Challenge was a step in the right direction. Pereira and Connors are members of a cross-department group spearheaded by Andrejewski that has met monthly since July 2016 to discuss campus sustainability efforts.

Behind the scenes, faculty and staff members ordered food packaging, planned dates and organized volunteers.

“There's more to it than putting bins out,” said Pereira.

The sustainability and athletic departments started planning the event in April. Pereira said her department had plans for more events about waste diversion, such as Recycle Mania, a recycling competition among colleges and universities during basketball season. Last year 320 schools participated, and Pereira hopes UR will be one of them in 2018.

Some tasks proved more difficult than others, such as managing the newly added compost bins which many fans were unfamiliar with, Connors said.

Their goal on Saturday was to raise awareness about waste and recycling through trial and error.

“For individuals who recycling is part of their daily life it's very easy for them, but then for individuals who have never thrown a Coke can into a recycling bin, you will find them in the trash,” Pereira said.

Anna Leigh White, sophomore, volunteered at the event and was skeptical about the its impact on the student body. White is a student in Earth Lodge, a living-learning community focused on getting students more involved in nature.

Some fans appreciated the volunteers' work while others ignored it, and some handed their trash directly to White for her to figure out where it should go, she said.

“I think that a pattern of having more sustainable options for waste reduction, or waste in general, is going to bring that to the front of people's minds a little more,” White said. “When you throw stuff away it just gets thrown in the back of your mind."

Just one event on its own will not be enough to change students’ relationship to trash, White said.

The GameDay Recyling Challenge on Saturday was just the beginning of the Rethink Waste campaign dedicated to making people think about what they throw out and where it actually goes.

Contact news writer Ellen Brooks at ellen.brooks@richmond.edu.

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