Recycle maniacs

Published in FSD Update

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Four hundred sixty-one colleges and universities across the United States participated in the 14th annual RecycleMania tournament, a bracket-style competition to motivate students and promote waste-reduction activities across campus, including within dining facilities. Organized by nonprofit RecycleMania Inc. with support from Keep America Beautiful, the event was designed to leverage the competitive spirit of the NCAA basketball tournament. This year, a total of 89.1 million pounds of materials were recovered from competing institutions, 16.3 million pounds of which were organic items such as food waste.

During an eight-week period, participating schools reported the amount of recycling and trash collected each week. The schools were ranked based upon per capita recycling figures, as well as which had the best recycling rate as a percentage of total waste and which generated the least amount of combined trash and recycling.

Alec Cooley, program manager for RecycleMania and director of recycling programs for Keep America Beautiful, says the initiative provides a tool to help operators build awareness around a food-waste reduction campaign. Just as important, RecycleMania provides a shot of adrenaline to college students. “If the ‘save the earth’ message doesn’t work, you have to package that message in a way that will resonate with your audience and their values,” Cooley says. “That’s the genesis behind RecycleMania. We know we can tap into the rivalries that already exist between colleges and we know that competition in general is something that motivates college students.” The competition has been gaining traction since the program began in 2001 with just two schools.

Participation is led by a variety of campus departments, though Cooley shares that for “a majority of schools, the driving force is usually facilities based, a recycling department or sustainability office. We have quite a few schools where it is the foodservice director or dining office that takes that lead role.”

The 2014 winners include:

  • Grand Champion category with the largest percentage of overall waste that was recycled: Antioch University, Seattle
  • Per Capita Classic category with the largest total pounds of recyclables per person: Kalamazoo College, Michigan
  • Waste Minimization category with the least overall waste per person: Valencia College, Orlando, Fla.

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