RecycleMania, an annual competition aimed at reducing and recycling waste at universities across the country, is well underway at Mills College. Campus organizers hope that with enough outreach, students will think more about the trash they generate and Mills will come out a leader come the end of March.
More than 600 colleges and universities are competing this year. During the 10-week period, which began Jan. 17 and ends March 27, schools collect and report the recycling data to RecycleMania, which is governed by an independent steering committee comprised of recycling managers at five participating schools.
The organization’s online leader board is ranked each week according to separate categories: which school collects the largest amount of recyclables per capita, the largest amount of total recyclables, the least amount of trash per capita and the highest recycling rate.
The data are gathered through the College’s hired recycling service, which weighs the recyclables, trash and compost.
Alec Cooley, Manager of Recycling Programs at Keep America Beautiful (KAB), a nonprofit which sponsors and administers the competition, commented about the goals of the competition.
“Waste minimization is the most important category in RecycleMania, the best benefit of the competition is the recycling and the knowledge of disposing of materials properly,” he said. “The competition doesn’t so much promote higher numbers as it does recognize the schools that are doing the best job of disposing of unwanted materials.”
Sustainability and Recycling Coordinator Britta Bullard said although it is considered a “friendly” competition that does not mean it should be taken lightly.
“If this was a swimming competition against Yale we’d want to win it,” said Bullard. “So this should be no different.”
According to the leader board, Mills is currently ranked third in composting food service organics, 40th in pounds of recyclables per capita, 62nd in cumulative recycling, 134th in waste minimization and 222nd in highest gross tonnage of recyclables.
According to Bullard, this year’s recycling numbers are significantly lower than the past two years; in fact, the numbers have been almost halved in the past few months.
“It’s really disheartening that people don’t recycle,” Bullard said. “I look in garbage bins placed right next to the recycling ones and they’re full of plastic bottles and take out containers that could have easily been recycled or composted.”
The competition hopes to spread awareness to the Mills community about recycling and focusing on waste minimization.
“The benefits of RecycleMania are that it reframes recycling and waste minimization so that they resonate better in the community. Competitions create unity and are positive ways of framing progress and that’s what we’ve worked to do with RecycleMania. The leader board is merely a way of recognizing the schools that are best reducing waste and recycling,” said Cooley.
Bullard and members from Earth CORPS have been working on outreach. First-year Alexandria Fiorini has helped Bullard table in Adam’s Plaza with information on proper recycling techniques and using reusable containers like the Eco-Clamshells and travelers mugs that are sold at the Tea Shop.
“I hope that the campus community will be aware of the waste that they create and to really think about the life cycle of the products they purchase,” said Fiorini. “How much wasted resources did it take to produce [this] and where is it going to end up when you are done with it?”
Continuing their work to spread awareness around the campus, students Fiorini and Ling Ou will begin residence hall presentations on a sustainable dorm life.