Steely Resolve

Pittsburgh is a city that is passionate about its sports franchises, be it the perennially competitive Steelers of the NFL and Penguins of the NHL, or MLB’s perennially not-so-competitive Pirates. In December, seeking to tap some of that black and gold fervor, the Pennsylvania Resources Council (PRC) launched “Let’s Tackle Recycling”, an effort to divert recyclables generated by fans tailgating before major sporting events at Pittsburgh’s Heinz Field.

So far, those events have comprised the Steelers’ last three regular season games and the NHL Winter Classic, a regular season hockey game played outdoors annually on New Year’s Day, this year between the Penguins and the Washington Capitals. (At the time of this writing, PRC was also planning to collect recyclables before the Steelers’ Jan. 15 playoff game.)

PRC already had experience offering recycling at city events like the 10-day Three Rivers Arts Festival, says PRC regional director Dave Mazza, so game-based recycling made sense. “Our focus has always been on waste minimization, recycling and litter prevention, so it’s a perfect fit for what we do. It complements the education programs and the other waste minimization and recycling efforts that we’ve put forward here in the Pittsburgh area.”

To get “Let’s Tackle Recycling” off the ground, PRC partnered with the Alcoa Foundation, Alco Parking, City of Pittsburgh Environmental Services, Greenstar, the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Pittsburgh Sports & Exhibition Authority. Staff at the events distributed 30-gallon blue plastic bags printed with instructions detailing what materials were allowed in the bags and what to do with them once they were full. The commingled recyclables were sorted at a Greenstar single-stream MRF.

“By the second or third game, we actually had people coming up to us asking us for blue bags, giving us the thumbs up as we were carrying bags out to the curb,” says Mazza. “People would be saying, ‘Yeah! Recycling!’”

Volunteers were on hand to educate the public about the benefits of recycling. The Steelers’ mascot, Steely McBeam, was recruited to drum up support. But the main attraction, according to Mazza, is what he describes as “the world’s largest cornhole game,” giving fans had the opportunity to try to toss a bag of recyclables through a two-foot-wide hole for fun and prizes.

The Steelers game events yielded 9,000 pounds of recyclables, or roughly 3,000 pounds per game, while the NHL Winter Classic produced 4,000 pounds. “It was a little bit bigger crowd than what they typically get at a Steelers game, plus there were a lot of pre-game activities outside the stadium,” says Mazza, who hopes to see similar events continue in the future.

He adds that he’s proud of the way Pittsburgh fans have embraced the events, taking the opportunity to crow a little about that OTHER Pennsylvania metropolis that starts with a ‘P’. “I’ll throw a little dig in: We kick Philly’s butt when it comes to recycling rate!”

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