ANN ARBOR – If you go to Michigan Stadium to watch some football games this season, you’ll see some familiar furry characters around the space.
Michigan’s Recycling Raccoon Squad, the faces of the state’s “Know It Before Your Throw It” recycling education campaign, have been posted at 250 locations and on 127 television screens throughout the stadium to encourage fans to recycle properly.
University of Michigan aims to divert 90% of waste from the football stadium from landfills, and has partnered with the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy to install images of the furry education ambassadors.
“It’s exciting for EGLE to team with the University of Michigan and help support its recycling goals and climate change priorities,” acting supervisor for EGLE’s Sustainable Development and Recycling Units Emily Freeman said in a release.
EGLE has led other successful efforts on U-M’s athletic campus, including during basketball games at Crisler Center and at hockey games at Yost Ice Arena.
“Regardless of what team you root for, all Michiganders can agree on the importance of recycling as a way to protect our environment, support local businesses, create jobs and divert waste from entering landfills,” Freeman said in a statement.
More than 111,000 fans filter in and out of Michigan Stadium during a home football game and generate roughly 6.5 tons of recyclable materials, including aluminum cans, plastic bottles and containers and cardboard pizza boxes.
Approximately 2 tons of compost are also produced, including specially designed compostable napkins, coffee lids, soda cups, food trays, cutlery and more.
Michigan Athletics has been working toward its zero waste goal since 2016. The Sunday after every home game, cleanup teams separate waste into compost, recycling and landfill bins.
The majority of recycled waste from game days at the Big House are used to create new products throughout the Midwest, said Alison Richardson, U-M Office of Sustainability Program Manager.
Fans at the stadium dispose of roughly half the waste, though some contamination occurs when people mistakenly choose the wrong bins to toss their items. The Recycling Raccoon Squad is set up in areas where waste is tossed to help remind people of the do’s and don’ts of recycling.
“The stadium is obviously a very public stage and iconic facility,” Richardson said in a statement. “Each game provides us the opportunity to engage and educate a wide audience. The Zero Waste Program at Michigan Stadium is a very visible way to demonstrate UM’s commitment to sustainability.”
According to a 2022 EGLE analysis, recycling in the state has increased 35.4% since pre-2019 levels -- an all-time high. Michigan now captures more than 500,000 more tons of plastic bottles, milk cartons, cardboard boxes, organic material and other recyclables, which is about 110 pounds per person annually.
Since 2019, Michigan has brought curbside recycling to nearly double the number of households that had the service before and expanded its drop-off sites. Now, nearly 3 million households across the state have access to recycling.
For more information on the zero waste efforts at Michigan Stadium, visit www.mgoblue.com.