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Athletic Field Recycling

It’s that time of year again. Park and Rec departments have done the mowing, the raking, and the lining. Ball fields are filling with games, practices and spectators. And with all those bodies comes another opportunity to recycle.

There are many reasons why you might be targeting ball field recycling. Perhaps you are in a region where public-area recycling has become mandatory. Or perhaps you are looking for every new opportunity to eek out extra recycling and get your community one step closer to a zero waste goal. But regardless of why you begin recycling at the ball fields, keep in mind that they are different than other areas where you might be recycling. If your prior experience is with municipal or county residential programs, there are several adjustments you will have to make.

What’s in the Waste?

Chances are the materials that people have to discard at the ball field is different than at home. In fact, at most ball fields, the vast preponderance of recyclables that you have will be plastic sport drink and water bottles from your players, and anything that your fans have in the bleachers. And if you have concessions, what you buy for the concessions stand is going to be what you see thrown away.

Recycling Bin Signage

If you want your recycling bins properly used (and keep contamination out of them), I have found that it helps to make your signage readable and relatable. And because the stuff that people have to discard at the ball field is different than at home, the recycling guidelines that are designed for residents are often only of limited effectiveness. Chances are that you don’t have steel soup cans or glass condiment bottles on your fields or in your stands. So why is information about those items cluttering your posters? Focus on the stuff you have. Focus on the plastic bottles that you want (and if you don’t want them, the coffee cups and fountain beverage cups that you don’t want). You only have seconds, or fractions thereof, to get people’s attention before they discard something into the nearest bin (regardless of whether or not it is the right bin). Keep your information simple and quickly digestible. Remember that pictures are worth a thousand words.

Generation and Pickup

The other thing that is going to be very different about ball fields is the frequency that recyclables are generated. Generation is not steady throughout the day or week the way it is with residential or office recycling. It comes in surges and slugs during a practice or event, then hardly at all the rest of the time. That makes it tough to do ball field recycling with the same kind of once a week curbside collection that you have for residents. Just from a pest standpoint alone, you may not want to leave the bins full that long. Chances are, you are looking at some sort of alternate collection that is going to bring those recyclables back from the ball field to a larger bin in the Park and Rec or DPW yard. Maybe that’s a grounds crew that backhauls the trash and recycling when they are out to do maintenance on the field after the event. Maybe it is a group of volunteers (parents at the game, a local civic group, or if you are in a college town, a local fraternity or sorority). Maybe it is part time workers, trainees who are looking for any opportunity, folks looking for a second income, or retirees just looking for something part time who are willing to specifically work odd shifts after events.

It’s that time of year. The ball fields are ready. The players are ready. Is your recycling program?

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Roger Guzowski

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