'Hoos Hope to be Top Gorilla as RecycleMania Gets Under Way

January 24, 2008
January 24, 2008 — University of Virginia recyclers are once again vying for the Gorilla Prize.

The University is one of more than 375 schools competing in the National Recycling Coalition's "RecycleMania" contest, which measures how much each participating school recycles over a 10-week period, starting Jan. 27 and ending April 5. The Gorilla Prize, one of several categories in the competition, recognizes schools that collect the highest gross tonnage of recyclables, regardless of campus population.

"We placed ninth [for the Gorilla Prize] last year," said Lindsey L. Daniels, a student employee in the Recycling Office who is coordinating U.Va's efforts in the competition. "Out of 201 colleges, that's a pretty big deal."

In 2007, U.Va.'s first year in the contest, the University collected 397.8 tons of recyclables during the event.

Aside from the Gorilla Prize, U.Va. is entered in most of the competition's categories: including grand champion, per capita recycling, waste minimization, per capita paper, per capita corrugated cardboard and per capita bottles and cans.

Each school tallies its totals weekly and posts them on the recycling mania Web site.

"I also post the results weekly on our bulletin boards in Newcomb and [Observatory] Hill dining halls and the front of West Range Café," Daniels said.

RecycleMania started in 2001 as a competition between Ohio University and Miami of Ohio, said one of the event's founders, Ed Newman, recycling and refuse manager for Ohio University in Athens, Ohio. The two schools started a "fun and friendly competition" to spur lagging student interest in recycling.

The following year, Bowling Green State and Harvard universites got involved, and the third year the field doubled again, to eight schools. In 2004, the federal Environmental Protection Agency stepped in and ran the competition as a disinterested third party, creating a Web site where each school's progress could be monitored.

After three years under the EPA, the National Recycling Coalition, a not-for-profit group started in 1978 to promote recycling, waste prevention, reuse and composting, took over administering the competition.

"We had no clue when we started this that it would double in size each year," said Newman, who is on RecycleMania's steering committee. "It just blows my mind."

But while he is impressed with the number of competitors, he said the "quality of the experience" is a more important issue.

"It should be a meaningful experience to generate more recycling," Newman said. "This makes it more appealing."

Daniels noted that U.Va's participation has many benefits.

"We gain recognition nationally by participating in the program and it provides us with another way to promote education about sustainability to U.Va. students, faculty and staff," she said. "The competitive side of it makes it fun. On the scoreboard last year, we put ourselves up against [Virginia] Tech, and we consistently beat them week by week."