Can it: ‘Recyclemania’ program hits its stride

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Saint Louis University is trying to move in the rankings of another competition, but this one involves recycling. For the fourth consecutive year, SLU is competing in Recyclemania, a nation-wide competition among colleges and universities to promote recycling and waste reduction activities to their campus communities. The competition will take place until March 29.

“We wanted to get the campus community more excited and more aware of recycling on campus,” said Brandon Verhoff, the director of sustainability & benchmarking for facilities services. “Over the past year and a half, we have had huge push for promoting our single-stream recycling program. [Facility Services has] an action team designed for waste minimization and in that group we are focusing on refreshing the single-stream recycling program on campus.”

Recyclemania started in January 2001 as a friendly recycling and waste reduction competition between Miami (Ohio) University and Ohio University. In 10 years, the program expanded from two universities to 630 colleges and universities around the nation. Saint Louis University began to participate in Recyclemania during the 2009-2010 school year.

Over the past three years, Saint Louis University has improved its performance in the contest. In 2013, SLU collected over 200,000 pounds of recycling and trash compared to just over 110,000 pounds of recycling and trash in the 2011 competition. The university came in fourth place in the nation when it came to recycling electronic waste. According to facility services, they collected over 68,000 pounds of electronic waste in 2013. Despite these achievements, there are still areas for improvement.

“One of the things that we really are trying to strive for is how to interact with the students and get them excited about Recyclemania and how we can compete,” he said.

This year, Verhoff explained there are multiple programs and events aiming to increase student participation and engagement. One of the newer programs is “Adopt-A-Spot,” where students claim a location on campus and then actively promote recycling in the area. The team with the most recyclables collected at the end of the competition will receive prizes.

Additional events include a special competition to collect a recycling pledge from students around the campus. The school that collects the most pledges around the nation will receive a recycled-content plastic bench. During the Feb. 22 men’s basketball game against George Washington there will be a new event called “Greening of the Game” which is an effort both to promote recycling efforts at Chaifetz Arena. Recyclemania will close with an electronic-waste drive on March 28.

There will be other ongoing opportunities to volunteer for the Sustainability Advisory Council and other waste reduction activities going on around the campus.

“We are hoping that this approach will be successful in getting more of the campus involved this year than in previous years,” said Sarah Burke, a graduate assistant in the Department of Sustainability & Benchmarking for Facilities Services. “Our goals for this year is to accumulate 220,000 pounds of recyclables, which is a 10 percent increase over last year.”

Burke also stated that another goal this year is to place first in the electronic waste section of the Recyclemania contest after placing fourth in 2013.

Ultimately, Recyclemania just wants to get students interested in recycling.

“We really want to get more students involved. That’s where this program is really going to take off… [and] the easiest way people can get involved is really just to recycle,” Verhoff said.