RecycleMania competition encourages sustainability on campus

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Monday Feb. 8 kicks off the 16th annual RecycleMania, a competition between schools within the state and across the country to reduce waste and increase recycling. This will be the twelfth year Utah State has participated In RecycleMania, and there are plenty of ways students can help out.

Alexi Lamm, PhD student and sustainability coordinator at Utah State, who helped organize this year’s event, said, “RecycleMania is a celebration and an emphasis on recycling for two months of the school year. We mainly compete with local and state schools like the U and BYU. Mostly BYU.”

Over the next two months, the amount of recyclables that pass through the campus recycling center, as well as the amount of waste taken to the landfill, will be weighed and tallied to see how Utah State compares to other schools.

There are two categories in the competition. The first is per capita weight of recycled materials, measuring how much USU students can recycle rather than just put in the trash. The second is per capita waste reduction, which will add the total weight of trash and recyclables, encouraging reuse whenever possible to keep the total amount of waste down.

“USU typically does better at the waste minimization, which is a great one to do better in if you’re gonna pick,” Lamm said. “USU’s been doing this since 2005. In 2005 there were 35 universities participating now there are over 200, so USU’s been involved for a while.”

Utah State has been able to hold its own in the competition, especially on the state level.

“In the state, we’re pretty competitive, but we obviously have a lot of progress we could be making,” said Emily Blake, a senior in Environmental Studies and Sustainable Systems, and another of the event organizers.

Students can contribute to the competition by taking an extra second to make sure they put any recyclable waste in the appropriate bin, or making use of the water refill stations around campus to reduce waste wherever they can.

“We want to make sure students know what’s recyclable. All the bins on campus are labled for plastic, paper, metal, cardboard even rigid styrophome, but there are even places on campus that will recycle your used batteries and lightbulbs,” Lamm said. “Additionally, starting next week, dining services is going to have additional facilities at all the cafes that will take food waste to the industrial size composter that USU has. This will be the first time we’re gonna be taking post consumer waste for reuse. We’ll take it to the composter and once it’s done, it’ll end up back in our gardens on campus.”

Students can help by not only reducing waste and recycling containers and paper, but also by disposing of food properly and in sustainable ways.

“RecycleMania is a great way to start thinking about reducing waste, increasing recycling, and just thinking about the world in terms of systems, and a complete loop. And through that process we can have fun and talk about these topics while competing with other universities around the state. Our campus has really grown with what we’re able to recycle and our sustainability initiatives, so it’s really adding to that movement,” said Blake, who is also the waste and recycling intern at the student sustainability center.

The biggest challenge is getting as many people involved as possible, she said.

“We’re trying to find the most effective way to get every aspect of campus involved,” Blake said.

Even the competition kick-off will have sustainable aspects to get students involved.

“Monday is the kick-off for RecycleMania. There’s gonna be Ibis coffee and hot chocolate trying to get everyone pumped for RecycleMania. There’ll be a few clubs out there promoting what they’re doing for it. We’re encouraging people to bring their own mug to fill up their hot drink with,” Blake said.

For information about events and projects with RecycleMania, students can go to the link on the USU Recycling website.

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