One by one, landscaping services workers color the Grove with school spirit, dotting the grass with the infamous blue and red trashcans.
It takes a group of five or six workers around three to four hours to place up to 1,200 44-gallon cans in the 10-acre grove and surrounding areas. Workers start placing the cans Friday morning at 6 a.m.
Forty-four gallons of trash is equal to 352 pounds of waste. If all of the trashcans are filled, there are automatically 422,400 pounds of waste collected in the Grove alone.
Jeff McManus, director of landscaping services, said with the football team progressing in the national spotlight, the amount of incoming trash will only increase, bringing more students to the University and ultimately producing more waste during game days.
McManus said during the weekend of a non-conference game, landscaping services will put out around 900 to 1,000 trashcans in the Grove and Circle. For a conference game or popular opponent, 1,200 trashcans are distributed.
McManus said the Alabama game holds the record for the most waste produced in a single day. That game produced 90 tons of waste. The runner-up game was the Texas game, with 87 tons of waste produced.
The tons of waste produced has increased from 489 in 2013 to 494 this season.
McManus said in the first two games of this season, there were already 120 tons of waste. Fresno State and UT Martin were non-conference games played under extreme heat.
McManus said while landscaping services cleans the Grove, the workers do not sort the trash because there is not enough time to do so.
“I’m trying to get us back to our beautiful and ‘normal’ campus,” McManus said. “It’s all about getting it in and getting it out.”
McManus said tracking the amount of waste that is coming out of Oxford, especially from the campus, is hard but not impossible.
What is typically measured and tracked is by looking at how many “tips” a garbage truck makes at a dumpster annually. A “tip” is when a garbage truck lifts the dumpster overhead.
“We track the number of tips and where the tips are taken from,” McManus said. “So, that is where you get that number every time that truck drops.”
McManus describes the Grove after a game as “a picnic gone bad.” Landscaping services reached out to non-profit groups for additional, volunteer labor.
The response was poor, he said.
The Baptist Student Union, however, agreed to work at $13 an hour per person. McManus said this arrangement is effective because they do not have to pay overtime and wear out their workers.
McManus said he is thrilled to be able to help support some of these groups. Other groups that responded were from the city and county high school sports teams and other charitable organizations.
“We are the place non-profits go to,” McManus said.
Lane Anderson, the assistant director of BSU, described the Grove as “rolling hills of trash” after game days. Although Anderson is happy about the improvement, she said she sees places which need attention.
Anderson said there are still a lot of empty green bags that are left lying around the Grove.
“Any recycling is better than none,” Anderson said. “If people tailgating would be more aware of that opportunity, it definitely would be improved.”
Amberlyn Liles, director of sanitation and recycling for Oxford, said this issue of waste is important to city leaders but the expansion of the department’s efforts tend to be overlooked by other city projects.
“It is so many people coming into town and it’s more and more every season, and we see the impact across the board,” Liles said. “It’s not a sexy project, and I get that.”
Each ton of waste that is taken to the landfill costs $36, Liles said.
That means the waste in the Grove alone has cost the University $17,784 in only three months and $53,208 in three seasons.
“Trash costs money,” Liles said. “Recycling costs money too, but depending on the market values, there is a return in the investment.”
Liles said recycling is a more complicated process than people think. She said that there is not a demand for recycling glass bottles because it is cheaper for businesses to buy new glass.
A shipment of glass to Atlanta where it can be processed would cost around $4,000 per trip, Liles said.
“Really, that’s all that it’s about, is money,” Liles said. “Getting (glass) to the recycler is more expensive compared to other products that we recycle.”
All the other products the department recycles that have monetary value and the city receives funds that go back into the general fund, according to Liles.
As Oxford grows in size, Liles said the department does everything it can do to expand each year. She said the city budgets around $3 million and the department usually matches that number.
Liles said it is important for the community to recognize the amount of waste being produced and to cut down on that amount by recycling as much as they can. She said to especially pay attention to receptacles and to encourage others to recycle during football games because it is difficult to monitor.
“How do you educate that many people?” Liles said. “People will recycle if it’s convenient, if it’s easy, if you don’t make too many rules. That’s why you want to have a recycling bin next to a trash can.”
The Green Grove Initiative, a branch from the Office of Sustainability, is another organization looking to improve not only the quality of the Grove, but also acquiring the recyclables.
According to Ashley Maiolatesi, Green Grove Initiative intern, there were over 400 volunteers last year. For game days, there are 60 volunteers per game and 15 volunteers designated to sort through what is recycled on Mondays and Tuesdays, lasting about four hours.
Maiolatesi said there are a large number of objects that cannot be recycled, including food, glass and certain plastics. She said about 15 to 20 percent of what is collected cannot be recycled.
It’s important to be conscious about how much waste is thrown away because Mississippi is one of the only states that has landfill space, according to intern Kelli Coleman.
“We definitely abuse our privileges, because they are filling up fast,” Coleman said. “The trashcans are just overflowing with things.”
Maiolatesi said it is important for fans and the Office of Sustainability alike to work together to help solve a larger problem.