By Heather Mendiola
On Feb. 2, the 2014 RecycleMania Tournament began.
RecycleMania is an eight-week, friendly competition that was created in 2001 as a means to stimulate recycling and waste-reduction behaviors among the student bodies at Ohio and Miami Universities.
By 2011, the competition had grown to 630 colleges.
Through the years, the competition has decreased carbon dioxide equivalent outputs by 127,533 metric tons, which is roughly equal to 25,000 passenger cars’ greenhouse gas emissions or the electricity use of more than 15,500 homes.
There are 11 categories to win with each prize, consisting of a trophy made from recycled items, and each category measuring a different aspect of recycling.
Nine categories are monitored weekly: the grand champion; per capita classic; waste minimization; gorilla prize; and targeted materials: paper, cardboard, bottles and cans and food service organics.
Three categories are reported only once over the eight weeks: electronics, film plastics and game day: basketball (which Union does not participate in).
The grand champion category combines trash with recyclable materials to determine a school’s recycling rate as a percentage of its overall waste generation. Results are calculated by dividing the weight of recyclables by the total weight of recyclables and trash.
In per capita classic, schools see who can collect the largest combined amount of paper, cardboard and bottles and cans on a per-person basis.
Along with waste minimization and the targeted material categories, their results are calculated by dividing recycling weight figures by the campus population.
In waste minimization, schools compete to see who produces the least amount of both recyclables and trash on a per-person basis.
Where other categories recognize school efforts to collect recyclables generated on campus, this competition focuses on efforts to reduce the amount of waste generated, including recyclables.
Schools are recognized based on the lowest overall per-person quantity.
The gorilla prize category recognizes schools that recycle the highest gross tonnage of combined paper, cardboard and bottles and cans regardless of campus population.
Therefore, winners are usually large universities with excellent recycling programs.
There are four separate targeted material categories for paper, cardboard, bottles and cans and food service organics.
With Union in 104th position in the grand champion category, we may not have a good chance of winning that category.
However, when head of Union’s RecycleMania team Jamie McNulty was asked about our chances of winning, he said, “we have a pretty good chance at winning or at least doing really well in the food service organics (composting) category.”
This past week’s results put Union in fourth for this category, so we do have a shot. We are also doing well in the corrugated cardboard (24 of 213), and the per capita classic (38 of 356) categories, so keep up the good work!
Although we won the per capita classic and paper categories two years in a row (2011 and 2012), we have a lot of work to do in the next few weeks if we want to win again.
If everyone incorporates these few helpful tips into your day, then by the end of the competition it will become habit and we will continue to reduce our waste long after the competition is over!
Here are a few tips to be mindful about:
1. Look for the numbers one to seven inside the recycle triangle on plastic containers. These numbers indicate that those containers can all be recycled!
2. Use a reusable water bottle instead of buying plastic bottles each day.
3. Use a reusable mug and receive discounts at Starbucks in Wold or in Dutch Hollow when you buy coffee and tea.
4. Reuse the plastic silverware from Dutch; rinse it off with water and use it at least for the rest of the day.
5. Take smaller portions from West and Upper, and then go back for more food if you are still hungry.
Be on the look-out for the RecycleMania Team tabling in Reamer and at Ozone Café throughout the week, as well as some members passing out goodies when they notice you recycling properly.