Recycling at Athletic Events 


Table of Contents

1.0 Introduction-- An overview of our project and the goals we tried to achieve.

2.0 Background -- Information to frame our research and data.

3.0 Actor and Material Flows-- A diagram of the actors and materials that flow in the Physical Activities Complex. A physical description of this system.

4.0 Research Question -- The main queries of our project are assembled in chart format.

5.0 Data Collection and Results-- The questions of what, why and how we did our research are answered. Explains our strategy and the results of our triparitite study.

6.0 Discussion -- A comprehensive overview of results.

7.0 Conclusion -- A summary of the information presented in our document.

8.0 Recommendations -- Our suggestions for further research in this area.

9.0 References -- People and works that were of assistance to us.

Appendix A

Appendix B


Responsible management of today's resources, without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs, was our working defintion of sustainablility this term. As mentioned in our past assignment, What Does Sustainability Mean on Campus? , sustainability on campus has several components. These components are: energy, water, waste, landscape, and transportation. The component that our group focused on is recyclable waste. The University of Waterloo Waste Management web site states that the University of Waterloo has reduced solid waste by 35% from 1987 to 1995. We thought it possible to further reduce the amount of recyclable waste being thrown out. This could easily be accomplished by setting up the structure to allow for recycling boxes for glass and aluminum to be placed at athletic events occurring at the Physical Activities Complex.

In 1981, the City of Kitchener (located in the Region of Waterloo), began a pilot blue box recycling program. Today, approximately 90% of the Region of Waterloo's single family households and 85% of apartments and townhouses are now participating in the recycling program. Recycling is not the overall answer, but combined with reusing, replacing and reducing, it helps create a more sustainable environment. With these preceding points in mind our philosophy is that when one can recycle, one must.

Athletic events occuring at the Physical Activities Complex (PAC) include varsity basketball, volleyball as well as other events that take place when the general community rents the facility. During these events, concession stands provide pop and bottled juice to customers.

Our group decided to take on the task of implementing effective recycling during athletic events. We are aware that in order to make lifestyle changes the alternatives have to be easy, accessible and convienent. Recycling is just as easy as using the garbage bin, as long as blue boxes are accessible. It also puts less demand on resources, uses less energy and promotes sustainability. This project investigated why recycling facilities are not provided during athletic events, and whether placing additional blue boxes throughout the Physical Athletics Complex would make a difference. Our focus was limited to those systems which relate to the recycling program at the University of Waterloo. Our goal was to make recycling available during athletic events, and to investigate current recycling practices, so that a more sustainable campus may be created.

During these events, concession stands are set up to provide pop cans and juice bottles to spectators. However, blue boxes for recycling are not conveniently located near the concession stands (blue boxes are located on one floor while the events occur on another). Our project hoped to raise the public's awareness of recycling, and maybe encourage more people to begin depositing beverage containers in blue boxes instead of garbage containers at these events.We wondered, if recycling boxes are available will they be used? And can they be installed in the PAC on a permanent basis?

By studying the recycling procedures at the Physical Activities Complex we aspired to achieve several key objectives. The ultimate aim of this project would have been to implement policies that would enforce the continued use of recycling boxes and bins to properly dispose of the recyclable waste produced at special athletic events. However, it was realized that this goal was too large to achieve in the time allotted for this project, so we limited our goal to three key objectives. Firstly, we wanted to determine whether there was a need for recycling and to what extent. Secondly, we wanted to outline, for the University's administration, exactly what must be considered to remedy the waste problem during athletic events. Finally, present to the Univeristy's administration our results, conclusions and recommendations. The three key objectives were designed to provide a clear direction to change current practices involved in the collection of waste material produced in the PAC during events.

We listed three ways of determining when we had met our goal. They were:


The installation of recycling boxes at the Physical Activities Complex during athletic events is a unique topic to the ERS 285 course. Other groups in the past have completed waste audits and recycling education programs in various buildings across the campus. However, no project has been intitated to accomplish the same or similar goals as our team.

The Physical Activities Complex is located on the University of Waterloo campus, (see University of Waterloo map). The building was built in 1968, and is 149 647 square feet in size.1 Games that occur within this building include basketball and volleyball, along with other sports events and activities. The facility can be rented by the public for special events( see University of Waterloo Policy #27). The PAC currently has blue recycle bins inside. However, the location of these bins is not convenient for fans during, and after the games.

A similar project was found on a search through Internet sites dealing with recycling. The Oregen State University  (OSU) campus in the United States has a website that proudly talks about their efforts to make their campus a more environmentally friendly place. After corresponding with a representative from OSU, we have found out that their administration, students and custodial staff all support their campus recycling program. However, they find that recycling at athletic events is the hardest part of the program to run successfully. The main problem faced by OSU staff, in regards to recycling at athletic events, occurs because fans leave most of their waste and recyclable materials in the stands.


The flow of information from actors, and their influence on recyclable materials, such as aluminum cans and glass bottles, is demonstrated below. The Athletic Department directs the operation of the concession stand and controls managerial responsibilities based on UW's policies (see Policy 27, section VI). The beverage distributor sells the concession stand flats of beverages. At the athletic events when the concession stand is open, spectators purchase and consume the products. In most cases, the containers are then either thrown out or left in the stands, rarely are the materials walked to the next floor where permanent recycling boxes are located. The custodial staff collects the contents of the garbage containers to prepare for pick-up by waste company. Part-time students and full-time custodians collect the blue boxes and transport the larger receptacles to the location outside of the Physical Activities Complex where the collection company removes them. The waste company takes their truckload to the landfill site. Whereas, the recycling company delivers their material to the Materials Recycling Centre in Waterloo. The material is then sorted, processed and sold to manufacturers to be transformed into other products.


To begin our research we had to find a problem that existed on campus, was of interest to us and of some environmental concern. We assumed that there was a considerable amount of material at athletic events that was not being recycled, and decided to investigate this area. Therefore, we deduced our research question:

Can additional recycling boxes be installed in the Physical Activities Complex (PAC) specifically for athletic events?


To determine whether there was sufficient recycling facilities at athletic events, we measured how much recyclable material the events generated and how much of it was recycled. We also interviewed various people involved with the operation of the PAC.

Prior to performing any physical observations our group undertook various methods to collect the pertinent data. First we interviewed our contacts; Patty Cook, Bill Cook, Tom Galloway and Roland Muller and Jen Ferguson.

These are some of the important questions we felt should be answered before recycling boxes could be put in place.

The first step in our data collection involved gathering preliminary data. Preliminary observations were obtained during the games played from January 17 to February 12. Records of the approximate attendance and the amount of products sold at the concessions were collected. During the events, our members also visually observed and noted the spectators' behaviour towards recycling. For example, we observed whether people were looking for recycling or using the closest waste disposal bin. The observations collected allowed us to effectively determine what type of materials entered the PAC's waste stream, and whether these materials could be recycled. (Please see Appendix A for preliminary observation results)

The results of the preliminary observations showed that between twenty-four and ninety six cans of pop, and twelve to twenty-four bottles of juice were sold each game. Since no recycling bins were located in the grand stand area or near the concessions during this time period, we can reasonably assume that the majority of this material was ending up in the garbage containers. Even if we assume that ten percent of people are responsible enough to find a recycling bin, or take the container home with them to recycle it, that still leaves ninety percent of the material that is being thrown out. This is a substantial amount of recyclable material being wasted.

To determine what extent recyclables entered the waste stream, we set up a pilot project on March 7,8 and 9(women's championship basketball tournament). Over the three day period, eleven basketball games were played. During those games, we placed two additional (household size) recycling boxes near the concession booths. The boxes were located adjacent to the two garbage bins, in the PAC (see map of PAC, Third Floor). At the end of each day a physical count of the contents of the blue boxes was performed. The garbages were also audited to determine the number of cans and bottles that still entered the waste stream. However, the garbages were only audited on March 8 and 9.

The data collected from the experimental blue box was then processed to determine the percentages of recycled and non-recycled containers (see Appendix B for the raw data collected). We determined the percentage recycled of the total containers sold per 100 people, by taking the number of containers per 100 people in attendance, divided by the number of containers sold per 100 people in attendance times 100. The same calculations were used to obtain the percentage of recyclables in the garbage containers per 100 people except for the March 7th entry, where we subtracted the amount recycled per 100 people from 100 percent (ie 100 percent was the amount of containers sold). The "other" category include recyclables left in stands or taken out of the building, the numbers were caluclated per 100 people attending by subtracting the total of percent recycled and percent in the garbage the percent sold(100 percent). In the chart below, the garbage and "other" calculations were combined to give the total not reaching a recycling destination which we classed as garbage. (For full data information please contact James Kay)

The results of our group placing two recycling boxes beside the concession stands in the Physical Activities Complex during eleven games, shows that more conveniently placed blue boxes would encourage people to recycle more of what they buy. The table below displays the data collected.

These results show that there is a large amount of material that could potentially be recycled. Over the three days, 1 710 people attended the events. A significant number of people that could save needless waste.

Distribution of Recyclable Beverage Containers at PAC



# Sold /100 People

% Recycled (of total sold/100)

% Garbage (of total sold/100)

% Other (of total sold/100)

March 7






March 8






March 9






*N/C= not collected

*Other means containers were taken home, not recycled or left in the stands

However, the data we collected can only be used to infer the amount of materials generated by the concession stands. This data was used to illustrate to the administration that a need for increased recycling during these events exists, and that additional recycling boxes will reduce the amount of recyclable material that enters the waste stream. We also interviewed Bill Cook, the PAC facilities manager, Tom Galloway, from Plant operations, and Roland Mueller, a custodian at the PAC.

There are a number of limitations that may affect our physical results.

  • There were three garbage bins for every one blue box installed.
  • No blue boxes were placed in the stands.
  • The time period allotted for the pilot project was too short.
  • No signs were posted to educate the spectators of the blue box locations.
  • A comparison between games with the blue boxes in place and those without should have been conducted.
  • We did not factor in the amount of materials that was actually recycled but then thrown out by custodians due to contamination by foreign, non-recyclable materials.
  • After discussing this issue with those most actively involved with athletic events at the PAC (Bill Cook and Jen Ferguson), it was discovered that there are no physical or economic restraints in relation to the installation of additional blue boxes. However, a problem to be dealt with before additional recycling boxes can be put in place is the issue of who will pick them up. Custodians as well as the part-time students are required to collect and empty the boxes. Part-time students do not enjoy collecting the recyclable material because it has a distateful odour, and transporting the bins to the main collection depot is not an easy task.

    Tom Galloway, from Plant Operations, felt that placing additional recycling boxes at athletic events would be feasible. He did not believe that there would be a significant increase in cost for placing additional blue boxes in the PAC. The union contract with the custodians is very brief (approximately one paragaph in length) and it does not delineate specific tasks that the custodians are required to fulfill. The custodians are required to collect the contents of white box materials from offices, as well as the contents of the caddy carts and regular blue boxes. Some of the staff will pick up, and recycle, cans and glass containers. However, it is not necesarily required of them to do so.

    Roland Mueller, a custodian from the PAC, informed us that the custodians are responsible for handling recyclables depending on the event. The students are also responsible for handling the recyclables in the three large bins from Red South, and for the small bins that are placed around the building. Rolland Mueller agreed with Tom Galloway's opinion that extra blue boxes would not create a significant increase in work. He also explained that the biggest problem with recycled material was the contamination of it. Custodians are not allowed to sort recyclables to remove the foreign materials that spectators may have mistakenly deposited in the blue bins. If blue boxes are contaminated the entire contents have to be thrown in the garbage.

    The second problem, Mr. Meuller related to us was, large amounts of waste are left in the grand stands after an event. These items are collected by custodians in one bag that is discarded into the garbage, even if recyclables have been put in it.

    6.0   DISCUSSION

    Adding additional recycling bins at athletic events is a very feasible possibility. Based on our experimental data, over the course of a year many cans and bottles are ending up in landfill sites rather than at recycling facilities. The number of recyclables that were collected in the experimental blue boxes show that even though these boxes may not have been strategically placed, they still diverted approximately 20% of recyclables from the waste stream. If more than two blue boxes were placed in the grand stand area, the amount recycled would probably increase.

    According to Tom Galloway, from Plant Operations, and Roland Mueller, a custodian at the PAC, placing additional recycling bins along with the regular waste bins would be a feasible venture. They both agreed that the placement of additional boxes would not significantly increase the janitorial work load. There are several problems that need to be addressed, though, before implementing additional blue boxes. Firstly, the most effective placement of the blue boxes has yet to be determined. Secondly, there is the problem that many people do not use the recycle bins properly. Bins become contaminated by non-recyclable waste. More education of the fans and athletes concerning recycling should occur. Third, a significant amount of waste is left in the grand stands. This waste is collected by the custodians and placed in garbage bags. The custodians do not seperate the waste, so any recyclables left in the stands are added to the waste stream. These problems, however, are beyond the scope of our original project.

    Placing three to four additional blue caddy bins close to the waste bins on the gym floor (see map of PAC floor plan) could be a possiblility. The large blue bins that have lids on top would be the best to use because they are large and easy to spot. The visibility and recognizable function of these bins may increase recycling box use. Also, because these containers have a lid, contamination from ignorant placement of non-recyclables could possibly be reduced by placing signs on the lid.

    Although additional blue boxes could be distributed throughout the PAC during special athletic events, the fans who support the teams need to be educated on the importantce of proper recycling. The spectators and people who participate at these events are the ones who really make the difference.

    Overall, this project has been a sucess because it has been determined that our original goal of placing additional recycling boxes at athletic events is in fact quite feasible. The only step left now is action by the actors involved to ensure that the current situation is amended.

    7.0   CONCLUSION

    The data collected has provided us with several conlcusions. We can conclude, from talking to the staff members involved with our project, that implementing our requests would not be an economic burden. In fact, all of our contacts thought that additional recycling in the PAC was a good idea. Extra bins and recycling caddies could be placed near the events, so that fans have the opportunity to contribute to campus sustainability through recycling.

    In our research, we also discovered that there are no written policies relating to recycling or environmental issues on the University of Waterloo campus. To show that our university is committed to the idea of becoming an environmentally friendly area, the administration should enact a policy that outlines our stance on these issues.

    The only obstacle that is hindering the success of recycling at the PAC is the attitudes and behaviours of the athletes and spectators. If they could be motivated to care for where they deposit their recyclable materials then the two major problems, abandoned recyclable material in the stands and the contamination of recycling bins with non-recyclables, may be solved.


    After conducting the experiment and analyzing the data, we have come up with several reccommendations for the administration and for further ERS 285 projects related to this topic.

    9.0   REFERENCES

    Websites Consulted

  • University of WaterlooWaste Management,
  • University of Waterloo Map,
  • University of Waterloo Policies,
  • Oregen State University,
  • University of Waterloo Plant Operations,





    Basketball Games (Athena/Warriors together)

    Volleyball Games (Athena/Warrior together)


    Chart of Recyclable Products Sold and Attendance at Games When Recycling was in Place

    Games Concession 1 (BN) Concession 2 (RN) Cans Sold Juice Bottles Sold Pizza Boxes #of People
    March 7
    Game 1 Open
    Game 2 Open
    Game 3 Open Open
    Game 4 Open Open

    (Mar 7)

    144 12 16 515
    Mar. 8
    Game 1 Open
    Game 2 Open
    Game 3 Open
    Game 4 Open

    (Mar. 8)

    240 30 16 720
    Mar. 9
    Game 1 Open
    Game 2 Open
    Game 3 Open


    120 22 14 475

    *BN=Blue North          RN=Red North

    Recyclable Content Within Recycling Box and Garbage Cans

    Day Garbage 1 Garbage 2 Garbage 3 Garbage 4 Garbage 5 Garbage 6 Recycle Box (RN)
    Mar. 7 N/C N/C N/C N/C N/C N/C 24 cans

    5 bottles

    2 other

    Mar. 8 9 cans

    1 bottle

    3 other

    48 cans

    4 bottles

    2 other

    31 cans

    3 bottles

    0 other

    23 cans

    3 bottles

    0 other


    2 bottles

    0 other

    13 cans

    1 bottle

    1 other

    27 cans

    8 bottles

    11 others

    Mar.9 7 cans

    0 bottles

    5 other

    24 cans

    2 bottles

    3 other

    18 cans

    2 bottles

    4 other

    15 cans

    4 bottles

    0 other

    7 cans

    3 bottles

    2 other

    9 cans

    0 bottles

    2 other

    22 cans

    7 bottles

    7 others

    Total 16 cans

    1 bottle

    8 other

    72 cans

    6 bottles

    5 other

    49 cans

    5 bottles

    4 other

    38 cans

    7 bottles

    0 other

    18 cans

    5 bottles

    2 other

    9 cans

    1 bottle

    3 other

    73 cans

    20 bottles

    20 other

    *N/C= not collected            *Other means other recyclables not sold at the concessions (for example, foreign pop cans and juice bottles) 

    *For questions or comments Click Here to e-mail us!

    1.     University of Waterloo Plant Operations. University of Waterloo Buildings. 1991.