On Sept. 7, at 12:21 p.m., 86,783 football fans gathered in Neyland Stadium to watch UT play Western Kentucky.

Meanwhile, volunteers and workers were diligently cleaning up the 14.11 tons of recyclable waste that those football fans left in their wake.

"People expect it will all be magically cleaned up by the next game," Bob Caudill, director of facilities services, said. "When in reality, there's a whole team of people who come out here every week."

Student workers, UT facilities services and landscape services employees and volunteers work together to clean up the massive amounts of waste that accumulate each game day. Cleanup starts on Saturday morning as workers hand out blue recycling bags to tailgaters in hopes that fans will dispose of trash responsibly.

"We attack the outside of the stadium 10 minutes after kickoff," said Gordon Nelson, assistant director of facilities services. "The idea is to have the exterior of the stadium looking presentable by halftime."

Workers continue cleaning campus throughout the weekend.

"On a good day, when it doesn't rain, they can be finished by around one o'clock on Sunday afternoon," Caudill said.

But for some of the UT students who aid with the cleanup, participating has its advantages.

"It is extremely hard work, but it's a very rewarding experience," Joshua Ferrell, sophomore in computer science, said. "It's really an enlightening experience to come out here and realize how big of an issue waste really is."

With more than 100 recycling containers in the stadium, 200 composting bins and 14 dumpsters located at the main tailgating areas, waste disposal sites are widespread on game days.

In addition, UT Recycling has ordered 300 more recycling depositories that will arrive later this year.

"We steadily improve each year in our recycling efforts," Caudill said. "If you look back at 2007, we were averaging about 5,000 pounds a game in total recycling. In 2009, it was up to 8,700 pounds per game. By 2011 it was up to 20,000 pounds."

UT currently outsources the cleaning of Neyland Stadium to a company called National Cleaning Services, but Nelson said he hopes to switch to a more cost-effective method.

"If we had different student groups cleaning different sections of the stadium we could get the job done while saving money," Nelson said. "Other schools like Ohio State are effectively using this method."

In 2012, OSU was able to divert 98.2 percent of game day waste from the landfill, according to Ohio State's website. Inspired by successful efforts like this, UT Recycling ultimately aims to have a zero waste game.

"Our goal is to eliminate all the trash cans in the stadium and make the area zero waste so that everything that comes into the stadium is either recyclable or compostable," said Jay Price, UT recycling manager.

"The truth is there's very little actual trash from these games," Nelson said. "Most of the waste is recyclable in one way or another.

"Our real challenge is just getting that message out to people."

UT Recycling is always looking for volunteers to assist in the major undertaking that is game day cleanup. To sign up for a shift, visit the UT Recycling website.