Starting on Jan. 28, UR will participate in an epic but friendly competition on a scale that it has never before known. It will involve the participation and focus of students, faculty and staff, all working together for 10 weeks. The goal will be simple: to make UR’s per-student recycling output the highest of the nearly 200 colleges and universities competing across the nation. What event could be so Olympian? RecycleMania.
RecycleMania began as a contest between Ohio University and Miami University of Ohio to see which school could recycle the most material. The competition has grown exponentially in the last few years to include nearly 200 schools, a figure which is likely to continue to increase until the contest begins on Jan. 28. Funding for RecycleMania comes from the Environmental Protection Agency’s Waste Wise program as well as from other organizations. Each school, however, must pay for the removal of its recycling. At UR, that money will come from Facilities and Grassroots, and the program will be run by the coordinated efforts of Grassroots volunteers and Facilities.
The name RecycleMania conjures many images, probably including monstrous, muscle-bound men body-slamming each other in a ring. While there will be none of that during RecycleMania, organizer of Grassroots and senior Carl Adair noted that students could expect “random and spontaneous acts of reputational self-sacrifice and personal embarrassment in the cause of recycling.” In addition, spots will run on WRUR and URTV.
“Our goal is to raise student awareness of what can be recycled,” said Grassroots member and sophomore Lee Reis, who is one of the organizers on campus.
Adair felt similarly, adding, “What we’re hoping is that the momentum generated by this competition will get the University to commit to a sustainability policy and a full-time sustainability director who would coordinate recycling and other efforts.”
Currently, UR does have a recycling program. However, according to Adair, only 10 to 15 percent of our waste is recycled, while schools with a full-time recycling coordinator or sustainability manager have recycling rates of 30 to 40 percent, a figure he noted as “really impressive.”
Contamination of recycling bins with trash is one factor that keeps our numbers from what they really could be, according to Adair. About half of the bins must be put in the trash because of contamination, a number that organizers hope to significantly reduce during the competition. What is the bin-corrupting culprit that has prevented us from reaching our true recycling potential?
As is true at most college campuses, pizza is one of the preferred foods at UR. How are those pizzas transported? In cardboard boxes. What happens to those boxes when their contents have been consumed? All too frequently they find themselves in paper recycling bins where they should not be. It is doubtful that students would sacrifice such a dietary staple to completely avoid possible improper packaging disposal, even if it could bring to UR the glory of victory in RecycleMania 2007.
Fortunately, that will not be necessary. Students can improve their recycling game by putting pizza boxes in the trash and knowing what types of materials they can safely recycle. In Monroe County, those materials are plastics 1 and 2 – which cover any soda or juice bottle, as well as other bottles with a 1 or a 2 on the bottom – glass bottles, aluminum cans, and nearly any paper, with the notable exceptions of carbon paper, foiled wrapping, tissues and, of course, pizza boxes.
As this will be UR’s first appearance in RecycleMania, it is uncertain how we will fare against our conservation-conscious competitors. Reis, however, expressed confidence in what he sees to be a good refuse-reducing team.
“We have the team players, we have the team dedication. We can take this all the way.”
Fleming is a member of the class of 2010.