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Issues of The Environment: Dealing With Tons Of Trash On Game Day At Michigan Stadium

Courtesy photo

On football Saturday's in Ann Arbor, some 110,000 people make their way into Michigan Stadium. When the cheers have faded and the crowd gone home, the big job of cleaning up the 'Big House' begins. This week, we take a look at how U-M deals with the big mess. 


University of Michigan football home games generate a lot of trash, averaging about 15 tons per game.
Waste diversion from UM stadium goes through two channels, recycling and composting. Last year about 40% of the total game-day waste was diverted, averaging 6 tons of recycled trash and 3 tons of composted food waste per home game, which is about 0.18 pounds of waste per attendee.
UM stadium recycling has competition from other big ten schools, and many schools have better rates of diversion. (Ohio State has reached a 95% recycling rate and qualifies as zero waste.)
Tracy Artley, Sustainability Programs Coordinator for U of M, has been working to improve UM’s overall recycling status, including at the stadium, and she says the stadium has three long-range recycling goals:

  • Limit solid waste production to necessary waste only
  • Achieve an average annual waste diversion rate that exceeds the campus average
  • Develop game-day specific waste diversion programs, including large scale zero-waste events

Waste Diversion on Game Days

According to UM, “Like all facilities on the university campus, athletic facilities feature single-stream recycling, which means no sorting is necessary. Reducing the amount of waste produced and diverting as much waste as possible to recycling facilities is one of our top priorities.
Composting at the Stadium

UM introduced composting with Sodexo, its concessions partner, for all back-of-house food preparation at Michigan Stadium. This means that organic waste from food preparation will be composted. Plans to improve our overall recycling and waste diversion program at the Big House continue. The goal is for everyone involved in Michigan Athletics to be an active recycler, including fans, coaches, student-athletes and staff. Through signage, more containers and education, we are confident we can significantly reduce the amount of waste sent to landfills. 

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— David Fair is the WEMU News Director, and host of Morning Edition Contact WEMU News at734.487.3363 or email him at dfair@wemu.org

Contact David: dfair@emich.edu
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