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Campus Life

RecycleMania Competition Under Way

BU’s aim: improve ranking among colleges nationwide

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Has it been a decade since you last sorted through your files? Is your desk littered with unwanted junk mail and catalogues? Have you been throwing your plastic water bottles in the trash? If you answered yes to any of these questions, sustainability@BU is hoping to enlist your help.

Boston University is competing in RecycleMania, an annual competition among colleges across the United States and Canada to promote recycling and reduce waste. The eight-week contest is now under way, concluding on March 30. Winning schools receive an award made of (naturally) recyclable materials.

Recyclemania began in 2001 as a competition between two Ohio rivals—Miami University and Ohio University—as a way to motivate their students to recycle more. That first year, Miami University won the challenge, collecting 41.2 pounds of recyclable material for every person. The following year, more schools signed up.

Last year’s competition drew 6.2 million students and staff from more than 600 colleges. Together, they recycled or composted more than 94 million pounds of material. The goal is not just to recycle more material, but to make students and faculty more aware of campus recycling programs.

Sustainability@BU director Dennis Carlberg hopes that this year the University will improve on its mediocre performance of years past. In 2012, BU ranked 234th among 266 colleges in overall recycling, with a participation rate of just 16 percent, lagging far behind such neighboring institutions as Boston College (30th, at 49 percent), MIT (36th, at 45 percent), Harvard (109th, at 32 percent), and Northeastern (215th, at 19 percent). Last year’s winner was American University, with an impressive 85 percent.

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All recycling bins campus-wide are collection points for RecycleMania.

Carlberg says the University’s most important goal in taking part in the competition is to increase participation. Recycling and composting opportunities abound around campus—it’s about getting faculty, staff, and students to recognize that the paper, cans, bottles, or food scraps they reflexively chuck in the trash could be diverted to recycling or compost bins in office suites, classrooms, dorms, and dining halls.

Every week, waste management company Save That Stuff collects and weighs campus trash, recycled materials, and compost and reports its calculations back to BU, which forwards the information to RecycleMania. Competitors can track their ranking online each week. Final tallies will determine which universities win in a variety of categories, including the best overall recycling rate, per capita recycling, or the most weight overall and in specific categories like paper, cardboard, or cans and bottles.

University sustainability outreach coordinator Lisa Tornatore suggests a variety of ways to boost BU’s recycling efforts:

  1. If you can rip it, you can recycle it—just don’t toss in tissues, napkins, or paper towels.
  2. Reduce use; the less you put in the trash, the better BU’s recycling rate.
  3. Recycle paper coffee cups (or swap them for a reusable mug).
  4. Sort items at the George Sherman Union. Be conscious of its color-coded bins for recyclables, compost, and trash.
  5. Spring clean. Rid your dorm room or office of paper you haven’t looked at in months.
  6. Break down tissue and cereal boxes and recycle them with paper and cardboard. Place juice or milk cartons in with cans and bottles

Keep tabs on BU’s weekly performance on RecycleMania’s website or check in on March 30 for the final results of this year’s competition.

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Leslie Friday, BU Today, Boston University
Leslie Friday

Leslie Friday can be reached at lfriday@bu.edu; follow her on Twitter at @lesliefriday.

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