Home Education Want to be a winner? Recycle.

Want to be a winner? Recycle.

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By just recycling a newspaper when finished with reading it at any point in February or March, Ohio University students across campus are participating in a national program that could help their university win prestige or even grant money.

Recyclemania runs every year as a recycling contest across the continent. It was started in 2001 by Ed Newman, the former Recycling Manager for the University.

“It was to create a way to energize on-campus students living at our schools to recycle more,” said Newman in an email. “We were working off the idea that our schools already were very competitive with one another in sporting events and… pretty much everything so it seemed like an easy leap to compete with who recycles the most.”

It didn’t take long for the program to expand. According to Andrew Ladd, the current Recycling and Refuse Manager for Ohio University, the program grew to eight schools in its second year and 36 schools in its third year. The program has expanded to over 600 colleges and universities across North America in recent years.

The goal for Recyclemania is to get the word out on the program and to increase awareness of recycling in general.

“A lot of the environmental efforts that the university participates in don’t necessarily get recognized,” Ladd said. “This is a way to track what we’re doing, see how we’re doing in comparison to other states and other schools, and to get the word out about some of the stuff we’re already doing.”

Last year, Ohio University topped the other schools in the MAC, winning 7 of the 9 categories, including prizes for grand champion (based on overall percentage recycled), per capita (based on pounds of recycling per person at the school) and the gorilla competition (based on the number of items recycled).

Oberlin won the state title last year, meaning they are this year’s competition for Ohio University, along with Ohio State and Miami of Ohio. The goal is to collect 800,000 pounds of recycling in eight weeks, beating the 759,000 pounds gathered last year.

Recyclemania kicked off their program this year with visuals to demonstrate the power of recycling. During the first week of the eight-week program, Athens-Hocking Recycling loaned the university five-foot-by-four-foot bales of compacted recycling.

“We loaned enough bales to represent eight hours of recycling in Athens, just to have that visualization,” said Cody Adams, recycling specialist and creative marketing coordinator for Recyclemania. “It was twice as tall as a human and long as a truck, and that was just eight hours of recycling in Athens. That one was particularly surprising to me, and I think that one drew the most attention.”

During the second week, the program put out a “visual waste audit” used to demonstrate the recyclable items that people throw in dumpsters around campus.

Recyclemania workers took the garbage out of three residential dumpsters—Bush Hall, Washington Hall, and half of Gamertsfelder Hall—weighed it, properly sorted everything, and then determined what could be recycled.

“Before sorting, when we just took everything out of the dumpsters and the recycling site, the trash was roughly 83 percent and the recycling was roughly 17 percent [of the waste by weight], meaning less than one-fifth of the students in the residence halls are making the choice to recycle properly,” Ladd said. “After we truly sorted it, those numbers literally inverted. The combination of what could be recycled and what could be composted turned into 83 percent. What was left, what still needed to go to the landfill, was 17 percent.”

The most recent presentation has been delayed, but it might still be done at a later point. Other plans include a recycling recovery at the last home basketball game against Miami of Ohio on March 6 as well as a ‘Recycling Olympics’, running from March 16 to March 20.

The biggest event will be March 28 at the fairgrounds, when the Ohio University Recyclemania team stages a community take-back to collect items that might not normally be recycled. People can bring any electronics, industrial items, construction items, or even confidential documents, which will be shredded on-site.

The end goal is to get people to think about recycling, according to Ladd. The university has set sustainability goals to have 80% of the total waste be recycled by 2016. Currently, the number hovers around 65%, but Ladd thinks the goal is achievable.

There are too many benefits to recycling to pass up the opportunity, Ladd said.

“Recycling creates jobs, keeps jobs local, saves resources, reduces pollution and reduces greenhouse gasses,” Ladd said. “Finally, it costs the university less than to put things in a landfill, so every time an individual chooses the recycle, that opens up other general funds to other priorities—students activities, lower tuition and a better education.”

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