Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Recycling in the sea of red

They may wear blue in a sea of red on game day, but recycling ambassadors with the Camp Randall Recycling Project are definitely thinking green.

“It’s our first large-scale project,” said REThink Wisconsin co-founder Joe Silberschmidt, a recent University of Wisconsin graduate.

Large isn’t the half of it. By the numbers, the organization has worked to coordinate a recycling program from the ground up for the 80,000-seat stadium, recruiting more than 130 blue-donning volunteers and recycling nearly 1,500 pounds of materials in the first two games of the Badger football season.


Perhaps surprisingly, the project didn’t begin with an outcry from environmental groups, but with voiced concerns from student athletes themselves over the lack of recycling done in UW athletic facilities.

UW senior Maggie Galloway, a member of the women’s crew team, said athletes realized recycling was a big problem within the athletic department as well as the rest of the school.

“Two years ago, I noticed that all the recyclables at the [Porter] Boathouse were just being thrown away,” Galloway said. “Even though they had bins out they were just going straight to the trash. There wasn’t even recycling pick-up.”

Silberschmidt and other members of the UW women’s crew team in professor Jack Kloppenburg’s Environmental Studies 112 class decided to use their professor’s guidance and formed a group with a common purpose: to clean up and “green up” campus.

“I think that environmental awareness is spreading very rapidly right now,” Kloppenburg said. “What you’ve got here in REThink is this interesting combination of greens, Greeks and jocks.”

While the group kicked off with some smaller projects including an initiative for recycling within UW’s Greek community, the primary focus was on the Camp Randall Recycling Project.

“We researched what the athletic department is doing to go green and compared that to other schools.” Silberschmidt said. “Wisconsin was really doing nothing.”

According to Kloppenburg, the stadium made efforts in the mid-1990s to adopt a recycling program, but the project flopped due to lack of enthusiasm. Since then, the city of Madison’s recycling program has sparked awareness.

When REThink Wisconsin met with athletic department officials to make proposals for the Camp Randall Recycling Project, the reaction was generally positive.

“It all kind of fell into place, the energies from REThink Wisconsin, the student athlete committee and some of the things we’ve been talking about internally amongst our staff,” said Vince Sweeney, senior associate athletic director. “The timing was perfect.”

Silberschmidt said it wasn’t difficult to make an argument for going green, as the benefits from doing so are more than environmental.

“Energy conservation is also a very smart financial move,” Silberschmidt said. “More and more of the decision-making community is finding out that ‘going green’ is not just trendy but smart business.”

Kloppenburg notes although the officials were initially hesitant to place the project in the hands of students, a partnership grew from the collaboration in implementing the program.

“I think REThink gave them the sort of final push over the line to actually get going on this thing because you had some student energy behind it,” Kloppenburg said.

That energy was apparent on Aug. 31, when more than 80 volunteers were on hand at the first game to monitor recycling stations throughout Camp Randall and spread awareness to stadium patrons about the new program.

In the time between the two games, REThink made adjustments to their approach and encouraged volunteers to move around more.

Although 500 pounds of materials were recycled in the second game down from 900 pounds in the first game, Athletic Department custodial operations manager Kay Coleman said this is no fault of the program.

“A lot less plastic was sold for that game because it was a little bit cooler day,” Coleman said. “It’s still a lot that’s being kept out of the landfill.”

Sweeney calls the endeavor a “huge success” in terms of educating the public about recycling and is already in talks with REThink Wisconsin about expanding their efforts.

“Our plans are to continue these efforts throughout the year,” Sweeney said. “We’re going to try to do it at all of our facilities.”

REThink’s next big target is the Kohl Center. Although the facility has always had a recycling program, there have been recurring problems with keeping recycled materials uncontaminated, Coleman said. This year, REThink hopes to revamp the system.

As far as Camp Randall goes, Silberschmidt says he has already witnessed a noticeable change in behavior with stadium patrons.

“By the second game, it was very common to see people [carrying] their water bottles around to look for a recycling bin,” Silberschmidt said. “It’s just a matter of keeping that momentum going.”

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