CSU-San Marcos Wins RecycleMania 2006 Contest

“We were surprised to win last year,” begins Ed Johnson, assistant director of Engineering and Energy Services and Utilities at CSU-San Marcos. Naturally so; it was the university’s first time entering the RecycleMania contest. With a recycling rate of 43.31 percent, they beat out 46 competitors.

RecycleMania, a friendly competition among university recycling programs, provides a fun, proactive way to reduce waste. Through a 10-week period, schools compete to see which can collect the largest amount of recyclables, the least amount of trash and have the highest recycling rate. Participants report measurements on a weekly basis in pounds.

The main goal of RecycleMania is to increase student awareness of campus recycling and waste minimization. Ultimately, it helps all participants make achievements in recycling and waste reduction.

“This year,” Johnson continues,“we were doing our best to make sure we won. We had to work extra hard, as the competition gets fiercer every year as more campuses join in. We were up against some universities that have some impressive recycling programs.”

Indeed, RecycleMania has grown steadily every year since its 2001 inception, when Ohio University’s Ed Newman and Miami University’s Stacy Edmonds Wheeler decided that something had to be done to increase recycling in the residence and dining halls on their campuses.

“What we found some time ago,” explains Ed Newman, self-described Top O’The Heap Trash Man at Ohio University,“is that 70 percent of our campus waste was coming from the residence halls and dining halls, so we wanted to make a better impact with our transient population. We thought if we could compete with each other, it might help bolster recycling. It was a great formula that we sort of stumbled upon.” Miami University won the first year.

Participation approximately doubled in the 2002 and 2003 competitions. Bowling Green State University won both years, recycling 52.5 pounds per student in 2003.

Eleven new schools joined the competition in 2004, raising the total number of participating schools to 17, and Miami University won again. Also in 2004, RecycleMania partnered with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s WasteWise program to enhance and expand the competition. The initiative won the National Recycling Coalition’s Outstanding Recycling Innovation Award.

In 2005, CSU-San Marcos competed for the first time, and won the Recycling Rate contest, while defending champion Miami University triumphed in the Per Capita competition.

CSU-San Marcos got involved in RecycleMania because the competition is a natural extension of the campus culture. “It wasn’t anything we weren’t already doing on a day-to-day basis,” says Johnson. And that’s because the university has top-level support, with a Facility Director who wants the campus to be on the forefront of sustainability, energy conservation and resource conservation.

The Winning Strategy

Johnson notes three strategies that helped the university win both years. The first is having someone who’s committed to the contest and in a position to orchestrate it. In this case, it is Custodial Supervisor Carl Hanson. He was in charge of making sure the recycling was picked up, promoting the contest on campus and motivating the staff. “The neat thing about this,” says Johnson, “is that we’ve reduced our trash cost significantly, not only from pushing the recycling program, but also from auditing our dumpsters and reducing the number of pickups.”

A second strategy is having direction and interest from the top. “It’s huge,” says Johnson succinctly. For CSU-San Marcos, not only is the Facility Director supportive, so is the President and Vice President.

The third strategy is the labor-intensive job of auditing the trash. “The custodial staff was continually auditing what was going in the trash versus what was available for recycling,” says Johnson. “In those areas where participation wasn’t as good as we had hoped, we gave them friendly reminders to increase participation. I think the constant positive feedback to the campus community helped.”

Other participants feel as strongly about the benefits of the competition and the need for strategy. “We just competed in 2006 for the first time,” says newcomer Tracy Artley, recycling coordinator for the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor. “It’s a wonderful framework to get people on campus excited about recycling. And you can use collegiate rivalries to promote it. For instance, our goal was to beat Ohio State. We finished 20th, and we were happy with that, especially because we beat Ohio State. We’re hoping to do better next year, and we already have a plan of action for how to do that.”

Let’s hope the University of Michigan’s plan of action considers how to go head-to-head with CSU-San Marcos, because Johnson is ready to win again. “The third time is a charm,” he says confidently.

How to Achieve Recycling Success

Administrators at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, VA, have a robust recycling program. Like all programs, it’s a work in progress. Here, Environmental Management Coordinator John C. Wise (Chris) shares some of the things that have helped make the program successful.

1. Communication: Wise says that it’s important to let the campus community know who, what, when, where, how and why. For example, he communicates about how recycling impacts the lives of students, faculty and staff now, as well as how it will impact their children and grandchildren in the future. A lot of his communicating is done via technology: “I post campuswide e-mails with information in a short and concise manner,” he says. “I am working to improve our recycling Website so that questions are answered in an easily accessible manner on the site.“

2. Support: It is essential to develop support throughout the university community, Wise notes. “I work with a provost’s committee of students, faculty and staff called the Environmental Planning and Management Committee. Their charge is to increase awareness and help to set policy on matters of sustainability and the environment at the university. I also work with department heads and departmental and building advocates to improve the recycling program.

“Similarly, the custodians need to know about and support the program, since they make the program work. They help me identify needs and problems, and they help educate the community members that they work with about the program.”

3. The Three Rs: “I try to stress that recycling is the third R after reduce and reuse,” says Wise. “The 3Rs are part of a state of mind similar to the ‘leave no trace’ camping ethic.”

RecycleMania 2006 Winners

Grand Champion
California State University-San Marcos

Per Capita Classic
Oregon State University

Waste Minimization
Point Loma Nazarene University

Targeted Materials - Paper
Harvard University

Targeted Materials – Corrugated Cardboard
California State University-San Marcos

Targeted Materials – Bottles and Cans
Rhode Island School of Design

Targeted Materials – Food Service Organics
Middlebury College

Enter Next Year’s Contest
For information on the RecycleMania contest, including rules, forms and tips, visit www.recyclemaniacs.org.

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