HARTFORD, CT, February 1, 2013 – Beginning Sunday, February 3, Trinity students are being exhorted to pay greater attention to where they toss their soda bottles, newspapers, cereal boxes, office paper and juice bottles. All of those items are recyclable and should be put in specially marked containers, separate and apart from food waste, Styrofoam and plastic bags.
The effort is part of a national competition called RecycleMania 2013, in which more than 600 colleges and universities across the country will vie to see which will earn top honors for promoting waste reduction on their respective campuses. The contest, which began in 2001, is also used by schools as a benchmarking tool so that campuses can gauge how well they’re doing in terms of proper waste disposal.
Trinity began tracking its recycling in 2009 to see how it was faring, and entered the competitive part of the event in 2011 and 2012.
The administration is urging students to take the competition seriously, especially since Trinity recycles an average of 13 percent of its waste per month, as measured by weight, compared to the national average of 35 percent.
In a communication to the campus community, President James F. Jones, Jr., wrote, “I would like to encourage all of you to participate in the competition and promote recycling in every building on campus…The real effort will be with each member of our community doing their part in making sure any waste material that can be recycled is set aside in a recyclable collection container. It is our goal that this competition heightens awareness for recycling on campus and helps us become better environmental stewards.”
Kira Sargent, Trinity’s environmental health and safety and sustainability assistant, is coordinating the effort, which involves publicizing it, collecting the data each week, reporting the results every Monday and making sure that recycling bins are available in the trash rooms of every residence hall. Students can also rent bins for $1 for their rooms, money that will go into a “Green Revolving Fund.” The money will be used to buy more bins.
Sargent is taking a relatively cautious approach to RecycleMania, noting that if Trinity can raise its percentage by a modest two or three percent, that will mark progress. Her long-term target is 25 percent.
“The goal of RecycleMania is to increase student awareness of recycling so that it can become a habit in the future,” she said, adding that at the end of the eight-week cycle, it’s hoped that students will provide feedback that will put recycling on an upward trajectory.
The way it works is this: Over the eight weeks, all of the participating colleges and universities will report the amount of recycling and trash collected each week and will, in turn, be ranked in various categories based on who recycles the most on a per capita (or per student) basis, as well as which schools have the best recycling rate as a percentage of total waste and which schools generate the least amount of combined trash and recycling. The winning schools will receive awards made out of recyclable materials.
Sargent said she will get the data from the Connecticut Resources Recovery Authority, the trash-to-energy and recycling plant in Hartford, where Trinity trucks its waste.
According to the competition’s Web site, “by framing recycling in competitive terms, RecycleMania seeks to tap school spirit as a motivator to reach students who may not otherwise respond to environmental messages. In the process, the program works to reinforce the practice of recycling at an age when many college students are forming the habits and values they will carry the rest of their lives.”
The sponsors of RecycleMania report that the competition has had an impact. More than half of the participating campuses surveyed in any given year have reported a “noticeable increase in recycling” that is attributable to the school’s participation.
Although the competition began in January 2001 as a challenge between Ohio University and Miami University, it gained momentum as other schools jumped on the bandwagon. By 2011, 630 colleges representing 49 states and four Canadian provinces had taken part. More than 7.5 million students and staff were involved, collectively recycling 91 million pounds of recyclables. This activity helped to prevent the release of 127,553 metric tons of carbon dioxide (MTCO2E), equivalent to the greenhouse gas emissions of 25,000 passenger cars or the electricity usage of more than 15,500 homes.
During RecycleMania, the Community Service Office (CSO) and ConnPIRG will sponsor several programs on campus to increase the recycling rate. In addition to the Rent-a-Bin Program, they include:
- Composting, which is a great way to recycle food scraps, which can account for 25 percent of total waste. Trinity is working with the Knox Park Foundation to develop a composting program for kitchen scraps.
- The CSO will have a special collection of college-level books for Better World Books (BWB). Boxes are located in academic department offices and at the CSO. The CSO has collected books previously for BWB. Profits from the sales will go to a charity that donates books to prisons.
- Collection sites for used ink and toner cartridges have been set up on the first floor of Mather Hall and the Life Sciences Building. The sites have recycling boxes for batteries, small electronics and compact fluorescent bulbs.
To follow the results of the competition on a weekly basis, please visit: www.facebook.com/trinitygreenspace or Trinity’s site: http://www.trincoll.edu/AboutTrinity/offices/sustainability/Pages/Recyclemania.aspx.
For more information about the competition itself, please visit: www.recyclemaniacs.org.
To share your questions, comments and observations about recycling and sustainability, please email Sargent at: email@example.com or call her at 860-297-4072.