Waste governance and campus sustainability: formal and informal waste systems at football tailgates in Michigan

Noleen Chikowore, John Kerr

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Football tailgating is a focus of campus sustainability in the United States because it produces large amounts of waste. In states where recyclables can be redeemed for cash, this waste also is a resource for earning income. University officials face the challenge of encouraging proper waste disposal, cleaning up efficiently and coexisting productively with income-earning recyclers. This paper aims to understand how bridging formal and informal actors can yield improved campus waste management outcomes.

Using the institutional analysis and development framework this study combines observational data throughout one football season with semi-structured interviews with informal recyclers, tailgaters and campus officials. Data are analyzed using thematic analysis.

The case displays interaction between formal and informal waste management actors and between formal and informal rules of interaction. Campus officials have largely succeeded in encouraging proper waste management by tailgaters, who in turn loosely coordinate with income-earning recyclers under unwritten rules. Officials tolerate recyclers, but waste management could be improved with better communication and coordination and more trust between them. Many recyclers conduct their work with a sense of environmental stewardship that could support waste management efforts.

Uncoordinated coexistence between formal and informal waste management systems is common in the global South. With few studies in the global North, this is the first the authors know of in a campus sustainability context.
Original languageEnglish
JournalInternational Journal of Sustainability in Higher Education
VolumeAhead of Print
Early online date2 Mar 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 2 Mar 2023


  • Athletics sustainability
  • Inclusive waste management
  • Informal rules
  • Institutional analysis and development
  • Recycling
  • Tailgating sustainability


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