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Post-tailgate trash creates concern on campus

Published: Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Updated: Friday, May 17, 2013 13:05

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File Photo / The Prospector

Tailgating, though a college tradition, typically leaves behind a large mess for a 22-person grounds crew to clean up.

   Tailgate parties are a way for students and members of the community to show off their pride in their university’s football team. Hot dogs, hamburgers and of course ice-cold beers, along with paper plates, napkins and plastic utensils are all ingredients for a good time. Unfortunately, they’re also the ingredients of the mess that’s left behind.

Once the football game starts, the campus gets inundated with trash, from cans, to bottles, charcoal, paper or any other kind of junk.

“I have seen the mess that’s left after students and families that come and tailgate for the games and I think it gets a little bit chaotic,” said Tanya Sue Maestas, senior biological sciences major and president of the Student Government Association. “It is a lot of work for those you see clean up after them.”

With all of the preparation involved for events such as the football tailgating parties, the planning for the cleanup of these events actually begins as early as the summer.

“We (facilities group) start all the way from the Sun Bowl, all the way through campus and we start checking all the lighting, check equipment at the Sun Bowl, plumbing and fixtures,” said Jorge Villalobos, director of Facilities Services. “The actual planning process begins way in advance before football season and a lot of it is led by Jorge Vasquez (executive director of Special Events) and his special events planning.”

A 22-person grounds crew—responsible for cutting the grass, keeping the hardscape clean, trimming trees, maintaining the irrigation system and taking care of the 300 trash cans used on a daily basis—is also responsible for setting up an additional 300 trash cans and charcoal containers in strategic locations around the Sun Bowl and campus areas in preparation for the tailgate parties on game days.

“The hardest, most difficult event that we have to deal with is the first game, when we have Minerpalooza,” Villalobos said. “It’s essentially a week of solid labor of trying to prepare for that event.”

As thousands of individuals from UTEP and the community tailgate and then watch the football game, this small group of individuals work to ensure that the trash cans are emptied as well as taking care of any other matters that may arise during both the tailgating and the game.

The cleanup process lasts into the night and is followed up Sundays to ensure that the campus is back to normal by Monday morning.

“On Friday, when they’re busy and putting up fences for the RVs here (P4 parking area), I just go to another parking lot,” said Omar Cordova, freshman science major. “When I come here on Monday, it’s like nobody was ever here.”

Even with 20 to 30 individuals cleaning up after several thousand people, sometimes areas on campus may be overlooked.

“There’s a lot of trash everywhere,” said Marcus Green, senior accounting major. “The charcoal from the grills, some of that is not cleaned up, especially closer to the freeway. I guess that’s where most of the trailers and stuff are.”

Some of the work is made easier by associations, fraternities, individuals and groups, who hold tailgating parties within certain areas on campus and clean up after themselves.

“Hopefully, everyone is conscientious enough to clean up after themselves and keep the area the way that they saw it to begin with,” Maestas said. “We’ve had two tailgates so far since our first game and we (SGA) did leave our area clean. We made sure that we picked up our area and if we saw any bottles around us, we picked them up.”

Villalobos said one item that everyone should be aware of are glass bottles, which have become an issue.

“Our biggest challenge is glass bottles. Glass bottles break and they become a challenge if they break especially when it’s in grass. We spend a considerable amount of time having to rake out all the little pieces of glass,” Villalobos said. “We encourage people to bring aluminum cans instead or plastic bottles.”

One group of students provides some assistance with keeping the Sun Bowl itself clean.

“One of the cleanest sections in the entire Sun Bowl is where the UTEP band sits,” Villalobos said. “They are very responsible with their trash and they always make sure that when they leave, they leave that place like it was when they got there. They have a very good waste-management plan and they’re a good example to set for everyone.”

Robert Brown may be reached at prospector@utep.edu.

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