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Game-Day Challenge Added to ‘RecycleMania’ Schedule

The University of Virginia is defending its in-state “Gorilla Prize” title in the annual RecycleMania competition, which has added a game-day challenge category – this time for a men’s basketball contest.

The statewide Gorilla Prize, which U.Va. has held for five years, recognizes schools that recycle the highest gross tonnage of combined paper, cardboard and bottle and cans, regardless of campus population. Last year, U.Va placed 27th in the nation.

This year, more than 450 colleges and universities have entered the contest, which began Feb. 2 and runs through March 31. U.Va. is competing in 10 categories, including the Gorilla Prize, waste minimization, composting and several individual categories of recycling. The game-day challenge is one of these categories.

In the game-day challenge, student volunteers will try to achieve a level of  “zero waste” at Saturday’s U.Va. vs. Notre Dame men’s basketball game at the John Paul Jones Arena. U.Va. Dining, U.Va. Athletics Department and the Office for Sustainability have teamed to convert disposable items generated at the game to compostable or recyclable options and to ensure the waste is properly sorted and minimal materials are sent to the landfill. The University will be ranked in several ways, including per capita recycling, composting and waste minimization.

Competing in the game-day challenge puts U.Va. in familiar territory, having competed in similar contests sponsored by the federal Environmental Protection Agency at Scott Stadium during football games.

“It’ll be very exciting because it’s a sold-out crowd,” said Nina Morris, sustainability outreach coordinator at Facilities Management. “We will have about 30 student volunteers, with one stationed at every waste receptacle to help fans separate their trash.”

Morris said U.Va. Dining officials have been working with the concession vendors at the arena to suggest compostable materials for their food packaging, such as biodegradable trays for nachos.

The student volunteers also will collect compostable and recyclable materials from the suites and the concession stands and sweep out the seating area after the game, Morris said.

“Athletics already has composting in the athlete dining area at the arena, so this is a great opportunity to expand waste diversion throughout all of the John Paul Jones Arena’s operations,” Morris said.

Even without the RecycleMania competition, the University is already moving in this direction, having done single-day efforts at football and a special event at John Paul Jones Arena.   

“The students have been requesting ‘zero-waste’ events, and this can be a catalyst,” Morris said. “Athletics has been very much in favor of them because they embody the values of the University, they are good for the environment and they save money.”

Morris said several special activities during this year’s RecycleMania competition will promote recycling on Grounds.

“We’re having a ‘Duplex Derby,’ to see which of several offices can do most of its printing with two-sided copies,” Morris said. “And we had a guided tour of the Black Bear Composting facility in Crimora, Va., for about 15 students who signed up.”

Black Bear composts food wastes from the University’s dining halls and some of the smaller food operations on Grounds.

Morris said there will also be a talk in March involving faculty members from the Department of Environmental Sciences, the School of Architecture and the McIntire School of Commerce discussing the sustainable impacts of recycling. The final details have not yet been determined.

The University is also promoting “Litterati,” encouraging students to take photographs of litter with their mobile phones and post an Instagram photograph of it, then dispose of the refuse responsibly.

“We might make a photo album of them and put it on our Facebook page,” Morris said. “We can also locate where the photograph was taken so we can determine if there are hotspots of litter on Grounds.”

The RecycleMania competition, a project of the College and University Recycling Council, started in 2001 as a head-to-head contest between Ohio University and Miami University to encourage recycling on campus. Since then the competition has grown to include more than 600 colleges and universities vying for prizes to reduce their environmental impact. U.Va. began competing in RecycleMania in 2008.

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