Hours before the USC vs. Washington State football game kicked off, tailgaters in McCarthy Quad could look around the many cardinal and gold tents to find the Waste-Ed Wagon nearby, helping them recycle.
USC’s Zero Waste Auditors, Nick Belgrave and Josh Rebello, are out with the Waste-Ed Wagon, a mobile recycling station, before every home football game, with the goal of helping limit the waste produced by tailgaters and educating others on how to recycle.
“We’ve realized if we put more of these [blue recycling boxes] out, we can capture even more recycling,” Rebello said. “So, we drive the cart around and collect recycling.”
Before every home football game, the Waste-Ed Wagon filled with recycling bins is pulled around McCarthy Quad by a golf cart in the midst of the chaos of tailgating, sporting a banner reading “Mobile Recycling Station.” There, Belgrave and Rebello help nearby tailgaters recycle with ease in a way that allows for both enjoyment and a healthy environment.
Initially, the team focused their energies on including a “Waste Endzone” area at the game in which attendees could sort through their waste. Soon, however, the idea came about to make sustainable waste disposal more accessible for everyone.
“We realized maybe it was harder for them to, in the middle of the tailgate, bring stuff over,” Belgrave said.
Upon this realization, the Zero Waste team started out by bringing recycling bags to tailgates and eventually evolving into the Waste-Ed wagon which is seen today.
The Zero Waste team is dedicated to sustainability outside of game days as well. All around campus, students can see waste sorting stations whenever they leave their classrooms, allowing them to recycle or compost their waste. The team wanted to purposefully plant these stations all throughout campus, wherever students are nearby. One of the team’s biggest goals is to help students familiarize themselves with sustainable living on campus in a way that makes it a natural part of their day. According to the team, they want to help those on campus experience and engage with sustainability in a positive way while they’re at USC.
“As a freshman, you come in, you go to the orientation breakfast and lunch and you see the composting,” Rebello said. “You see compost and recycling at TCC or Leavey Library. You go to a tailgate and see that we recycle there. It’s the standard everywhere you go on campus.”
In familiarizing students from freshman year with recycling, the team hopes to make sustainable waste management accessible to all. The goal is that, when students graduate from the University, their time spent at USC has been environmentally beneficial.
“We want to set an expectation, bring awareness to campus about what we’re doing and make it as easy as possible,” said Gina Whisenant, Waste and Recycling Manager at USC.
The Waste-Ed wagon has had a lot of success in getting attendees involved, according to the team.
“People love to take selfies with the cart,” Rebello said. “They think it’s fun. It’s a unique thing.”
Rebello and Belgrave are out whenever the wagon is talking to people and helping educate them on how to recycle, spreading the message all around the campus from their use of bullhorns at McCarthy Quad to their one-on-one interactions with attendees.
At the end of the day, the team’s goal is to allow tailgaters to continue having a good time, while also helping control the environment of events.
Some students, such as Melany Keroglyan, a junior majoring in Cinema and Media Studies, have been praising the efforts of the Waste-Ed Wagon on game days.
“I know that there’s a lot of people that bring their own drinks, lots of cans and other recyclable products,” Keroglyan said. “Having [the Waste-Ed Wagon] around probably helps provoke people into adopting that behavior in their homes.”
The Zero Waste team hopes to expand the reach of the Waste-Ed wagon beyond McCarthy Quad to Trousdale Parkway in order to reach more people. In expanding their reach, they aim to bring more awareness to recycling and help make the USC campus cleaner and waste-free during the excitement of game day.
The team hopes to not interfere with tailgating, but rather to make sustainable actions more accessible.
“You can still have fun and be sustainable,” Whisenant said. “We’re just going to take all your recyclables off of your hands and try to control the environment in the [McCarthy] Quad area as much as we can.”