Story and photos by JENNA LEVETAN
The economy is affecting almost everyone, including the recycling market.
This year the University will be competing with 630 other colleges and universities to see who can reduce, reuse and recycle the most on-campus waste. Recycle-mania is set up to create student involvement in recycling. Recyclables are removed at a lower cost than trash bound for the landfill, meaning if students are recycling more, the school spends less, and saves money.
The competition takes place over an eight-week period. All the schools will track and report how much is being recycled on campus by weight each week. Schools are then ranked according to who collects the largest amount of recyclables per capita, the largest amount of total recyclables, the least amount of trash per capita, or the highest recycling rate.
This is the University of Utah’s fourth year competing in the competition. The school began tracking recycling weights on February 6 and will do so until March 27.
Recycle-mania coordinator Joshua James has committed himself to making campus more sustainable. He wants the university to be a leader in sustainable efforts.
“Students thinking more green is definitely happening,” James said. “Students becoming more involved with recycling has been easy with our poor economy.” James also says he hopes this competition will help expand economic opportunities while addressing environmental issues in a positive way.
Each year the university places higher in the competition. After a 75th-place finish in 2010 they are now hoping to get into the top 50. This year the university will be competing in the paper and plastic reduction category because they are the university’s most recycled materials. According to the Recycle-mania website, on average, the University of Utah recycles about 8,000 pounds of paper and 300 pounds of plastic per week.
The Office of Sustainability is also reducing the waste of plastic by providing a water bottle filling station in the Union cafeteria. When students use the fountain it documents the number of water bottles saved per use.
To get more students involved, coordinators are amping up promotion this year by starting a Facebook page and twitter feed. Increased promotion of the competition will give students, faculty and staff an opportunity to respond and boost their recycling habits to earn the higher ranking they are shooting for.
Rob Wallace, vice president of communications for Recyle-mania, says making recycling appealing on college campus is important because students are an extremely influential demographic.
“I like to say that every 40-year-old wants to be 22, and so does every 12-year-old,” Wallace said. “Recycling is good for the environment, good for the economy, creates jobs and saves energy. If college students are saying it’s the right thing to do, others might start to pick up on it.”
The University of Utah’s recycling program was launched in July 2007. Since then, the program has continued to grow and is expected to increase by 40 percent this year.
Recycling has been made easy on campus with portable recycling centers. Each center has a bin for trash, paper, plastic and aluminum and some have bins for glass and cardboard. There are recycling centers in all of the 853 buildings on campus.
Putting the recyclables in the correct bin is crucial. If inappropriate materials are placed in the bins the stream will be contaminated and then rejected. James encourages everyone to look for the triangle reduce, reuse, recycle logo when recycling there products. To help prevent recycling contamination, if your trash does not have the triangle symbol do not put it in a recycling container.
If students and faculty commit to recycling there waste it will decrease disposal volumes in landfills. The good news is that recycling is growing. Just 30 years ago, very few facilities or campuses had any access to recycling at all. In 30 years, a strong and vital industry has grown with the help of students who want to protect natural resources. Though the future is still to be determined, this generation of youth can be the ones to take recycling to the next level. It can create more jobs, more supply and more demand. This generation can help innovate new products and processes, and create new uses for recovered materials. It’s a wide- open opportunity and it all starts with the commitment to do more. That’s what Recycle-mania is all about.