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Students participate in recycling competition

PLNU is one of 461 universities in the U.S. and Canada participating in RecycleMania, an annual eight-week recycling competition for college and university campuses. It kicked off on Feb. 2 and will run until March 29.

At the end of every week, universities submit the weight of trash and recyclables collected from their campuses on the RecycleMania website, which is then converted in a rank of all participating universities.

“It’s sort of an honor system but we find that it’s very important to all the schools to be accurate, generally,” said Madeleine O’Connor, the communications associate at Keep America Beautiful (KAB).

RecycleMania Inc. is partnered with KAB, another nonprofit organization, which provides program management for the competition.

“RecycleMania is a way to make recycling fun and engaging for students because it fosters a competitive spirit on campuses,” said O’Connor. “A big part of what we do is to give resources to the recycling coordinators on each campus,”

Sponsors for RecycleMania include Alcoa Foundation, Coca-Cola and American Forest & Paper Association.

Participating universities receive a $200 stipend to use on interns or materials for the competition. Additionally, every participating school receives a $75 credit for the RecycleMania store, where they can purchase prizes for student participants or poster materials for spreading the word on campus.

Winners of the categories receive bragging rights and a travel trophy they can keep until the next competition the following year.

RecycleMania has 11 categories of sustainability efforts in which universities can choose to compete. PLNU is participating in four categories. Each participating university’s students, faculty and staff are counted in categories using the per capita measurement.

“Schools compete in different categories than others, but the most recognized is the Per Capita Classic, they call it,” said Senior Robert Wyzykowski, a marketing major with a minor in sustainability. Wyzykowski is Sustain PLNU’s intern for the RecycleMania competition. “It’s how much recyclables each student can generate, and we’re currently in eighth place with that.” One of the other categories is called the Grand Champion, in which the weight of recycled materials is divided by the weight of trash and recycled materials combined. A percentage is generated, measuring the weight of recyclables compared to trash. PLNU is also taking part in Food Service Organics, which tracks composted food and campus food waste, as well as the Gorilla Prize, which measures the total mass tonnage of recycled materials.

“During the competition, as students get engaged, the recycling weights increase over the course of the competition,” said O’Connor. “And we actually are doing a study this year to try to get a little more firm research on that, but anecdotally…it definitely makes an impact on recycling.”

The trash cans and recycling bins were collected from classrooms, dorm rooms and other places on campus. Then they are consolidated into larger bins with other recyclables or trash, which is emptied by the Waste Management and weighed.

“If we recycle more than we waste, then that’s really what the focus of the competition is — letting people be aware of what we throw away that can actually be recycled,” said Wyzykowski. “I think that’s one of the biggest problems. I’ve noticed that everywhere — outside of school, jobs, everywhere I’ve been, it’s always the same thing. You’re always seeing recyclables in garbage.”

Some PLNU students are passionate about sustainability and its impact on the environment.

“I recycle because I want to give back,” said junior literature major, Keana McGrath. “We have been given such a beautiful creation to live in and I want to do the best I can to help sustain and protect it. The start to a betterment of the environment is awareness and action. Recycling allows us to participate in sustaining our earth on an individual level.”