From beer cans to paper plates, trash after gameday is promptly cleaned up by the grounds crew, so fast in fact that by Monday morning the University of Georgia’s campus looks as beautiful as it did before the game.
For the glitter and plastic confetti left throughout north campus after graduation, the process can be a bit more tedious.
While larger pieces of trash, like what is left behind after gameday, can be easier to pick up, the small confetti presents an entirely different challenge for the clean-up crew.
UGA Office of Sustainability Director Kevin Kirsche said the glitter can be potentially hazardous for wildlife in the community.
“The biggest environmental impact would be runoff into stream and the aquatic life in that stream,” Kirsche said. “There’s also birds right on our main campus that could be confused and think the confetti is food, which could be harmful to them.”
Kirsche said not only are the small plastic pieces harmful for the environment, but also the presence of the confetti takes away from some of the beauty of campus.
“The litter can diminish the experience of others in that environment,” Kirsche said. “It litters our beautiful campus, so after students throw it and walk off the next people have to see that and I think it devalues and diminishes the experience for people after them.”
One of the biggest challenged with cleaning up the small plastic pieces is there is not a readily available, convenient solution for pick up. Kirsche said some grounds crew people will use lawnmowers in turf areas, but that is not the only place where the glitter ends up.
“In turf areas, like Herty Field, the grounds crew said it was the worst they’d ever seen, so they ran their lawnmowers over it to suck up and bag that confetti,” Kirsche said. “What they would typically do is compost those grass clippings, but with all the plastic they couldn’t do that so they had to throw it away in the landfill.”
Dexter Fisher, director of UGA’s facilities management system, said they haven’t seen much of the glitter, but often use leaf blowers to consolidate the small trash left behind.
“If there’s that fine stuff, we use a blower to get everything together then get it up,” Fisher said. “Depending on how much, we have shovels and can use that to get some of it up and get it into a trash can.”
Fisher said the worst trash is usually found around the Tate Student Center and Sanford Stadium, but they usually see small amounts of litter throughout the rest of campus.
While glitter and confetti can be fun, Kirsche suggests that those celebrating graduation throw alternative, biodegradable forms of confetti.
“If people do want to throw things, I would suggest natural flower petals, that could be lovely, or birdseed,” Kirsche said. “Those would be biodegradable, and birdseed would be reasonably healthy food for wildlife.”
Kirsche said he hopes people will take into consideration the impact leaving small pieces of litter around campus will have on the environment, and will use alternatives in the coming week.
“I think most people if they realize this is litter and that it’s causing harm to the environment and diminishing this place that they love, I’d like to think that maybe they won’t do it,” Kirsche said.
Written by: Amy Scott