RecycleMania 2009 concluded its annual contest on March 28 and recently announced the winners of the recycling competition between universities throughout the U.S. and Canada. A total of 4.7 million students and 1.1 million faculty and staff members from 510 schools participated. Launching in January, the contest yielded more than 69.4 million pounds of waste for recycling or composting over the 10-week period.
Each year, RecycleMania’s popularity continues to rise. Participation has steadily grown since its start in 2001. In 2008, the competition collected 58.6 million pounds of recyclables, up from 41.3 million in 2007.
This year’s collection amount prevented the release of 88,739 metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent (MTOCO2E).
Translated into real world terms, this reduction in greenhouse gases equals the annual emissions from 16,187 passenger cars, electricity usage of 12,258 homes or the burning of 462 railcars’ worth of coal.
“Clearly we see results that show RecycleMania spurs environmental awareness,” says Ed Skernolis, executive director of National Recycling Coalition (NRC). “The competition frames resource conservation in a way that resonates – and inspires – students to increase their recycling practices on and off campus.”
Smaller schools such as Kalamazoo College have typically been the frontrunners in the competition, but as the recycling momentum picks up speed, larger universities are getting on board as well. However, this year’s winners prove that big results can come in small packages – you just need a little motivation.
Here’s a rundown of the 2009 winners in each category.
Grand Champion: California State University – San Marcos, Calif.
CSUSM entered this year’s competition with an edge: The university has claimed the top spot for 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008 and can now proudly call itself a 5-time champ with its victory in 2009. The university’s recycling efforts extend far beyond the RecycleMania competition.
CSUSM has a 61.5 percent recycling rate and continues to strive for its goal of Zero Waste. CSUSM’s Recycling Coordinator Carl Hanson attributes the university’s fifth consecutive win to an entire campus effort.
“It’s part of our culture here,” says Hanson. “There are dozens of receptacles for paper, glass, plastic, aluminum, and paper on all major campus walkways and near entrances to classrooms and buildings. Receptacles are easy to recognize and distinguish, which means that contamination is reduced.”
CSUSM recycled 4.23 pounds of paper person, 1.13 pounds of corrugated cardboard per person, .20 of aluminum per person and .02 pounds of food service organics per person. The university’s full-time campus population is 8,781.
The “Grand Champion” top three finalists are determined by the percentage of overall waste recycled. Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering came in second place with a 64.22 percent recycling rate while New Mexico State University took third place with 64.02 percent.
Waste Minimization: North Lake College – Dallas, Texas
“It is a huge honor for us to finish first again. Since we are competing with schools, large and small, from across the country it is a thrill to be recognized for our efforts,” says Steve Schellenberg, assistant director of facilities services at North Lake College and campus advisor for RecycleMania.
Schellenberg also says North Lake College keeps up its recycling efforts throughout the year.
The college averaged 1,791 pounds of recycled materials per week and 5,529 pounds of trash, resulting in an estimated 1.09 pounds of waste per person, per week. It’s an improvement from the school’s 2008 average of 1.25 pounds per person.
The Waste Minimization category is based on overall reduction. As part of its involvement, North Lake College pledges to implement active programs to sell or donate campus surplus, promote inter-office reusable envelopes.
North Lake also plans to create a system to report wasteful practices on campus and offer suggestions for waste reduction.
Per Capita Classic: McNeese State University – Lake Charles, La.
With a campus population of 8, 336, McNeese State University recycled 76.19 pounds per person. The Per Capita Classic category measures the amount of acceptable recyclables per person. As part of its involvement, the university pledges to include waste reduction practices on campus.
For example, the school will reuse and/or redistribute packing materials from central stores and campus distribution centers. MSU will also promote its reduction by offering discounts or other incentives for using reusable mugs in campus dining and implement educational programs on waste management.
Gorilla Prize: Rutgers University – New Brunswick, N.J.
Rutgers University is one of the largest schools to claim a top spot in this year’s competition with an overall campus population of 56,056. The school recycled 2.13 million pounds of waste. Rutgers isn’t new to the game: The university held its own in last year’s RecycleMania competition. In 2008, Rutgers claimed first place in the Gorilla Prize category with 2.8 million pounds of recycled material. In addition, the school placed first in Food Service Organics Prize and took third place in the race for the Grand Champion.
The university encourages students, staff and faculty to participate in the challenge by promoting campus-wide recycling events on Rutgers RecycleMania Web site and the Rutgers RecycleMania MySpace page. The school also created an original PSA for RUtv.
The small college in Columbia beat its nearby competition, University of Missouri. With a campus population of only 1,114, the private college recycled 40.87 pounds of paper per person. The Student Government Association sponsored the school’s participation in this year’s RecycleMania.
Corrugated Cardboard: McNeese State University – Lake Charles, La.
The Louisiana university collected 41.87 pounds per person in recycled corrugated cardboard. The school also placed first in the Per Capita Classic Category.
Bottles and Cans: Kalamazoo College – Kalamazoo, Mich.
Kalamazoo College has had a strong presence in RecycleMania since 2005. With a campus population of 1,109, the school collected an average of 19.03 pounds per person of bottles and cans. It also placed second in Corrugated Cardboard and fifth overall for the Grand Champion category.
Recycling Coordinator Rob Townsend tells RecycleMania organizers that he finds satisfaction in beating big schools and compares the competition to his own “March Madness.” His team of 15-20 recyclers go door to door in residential halls to remove recyclables, answer questions about recycling and inform the students about the college’s participation in RecycleMania.
Students at Kalamazoo start getting into the recycling groove the minute they step on campus for the first time. New students receive recycling packets to encourage involvement and learn about the college’s sustainability efforts around campus.
“Kalamazoo students and staff come to appreciate the recycling effort here,” Townsend says. “It becomes second nature to them.”
Food Service Organics: Bard College – Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y.
With a campus population of 3,108, Bard College recycled a total of 26.64 pounds per person of food scraps, beating out its larger rivals. Bard’s Environmental Resources Department encourages recycling on its campus with easy-to-spot colored collection bins and has an online recycling resource for specific materials and locations throughout the campus.
Bard also offered incentives for students participating in the event. “Get caught green handed” and students could win a prize from local sponsors of RecycleMania.
Participating schools encouraged students to get involved through campus recycling events, viral videos and recycling incentives and prizes. This year, students got creative with their original RecycleMania PSAs. Here are a couple of our favorites:
Stony Brook University – Stony Brook, N.Y.
James Madison University – Harrisonburg, Va.
Participation in RecycleMania was at its highest this year. The ultimate goal of RecycleMania is to promote waste reduction activities that resonate campuswide, and education is key to sustaining a recycling effort on campus throughout the entire school year. For Rob Grogan, recycling and waste manager for Harvard University, RecycleMania is a competition with a statement.
“Colleges are naturally competitive with their rivals,” Grogan says. “RecycleMania hitches the recycling and conservation bandwagon to that powerful energy.”