March 2, 2011 — The University of Virginia once again has an opportunity to show how well it recycles.
U.Va. is participating in the annual RecycleMania challenge, competing against 630 schools in 49 states, the District of Columbia and Canada. The competition, which began Feb. 6 and runs through April 2, measures how the schools' recycling efforts stack up in four main categories — recycling rate compared to overall trash, per capita recycling, waste minimization and overall recycling tonnage. Schools may also compete in several specific categories, such as the total amount of glass recycled.
Listen to the UVA Today Radio Show report on this story by Matt Kelly:
After the first two weeks, U.Va. was ranked fifth among 14 participating Virginia schools, and 112th overall – a drop from last year's rankings, according to Nina Morris, sustainability outreach coordinator for Facilities Management.
"The competition is stiffer this year and we need to step up our game," Morris said. "The competition is so tight, a few pounds will make a difference. Every can counts. Everyone at U.Va. can participate in the competition by recycling and encouraging others to recycle. This is a great time to recycle old papers that are no longer needed."
The University is competing in the "Gorilla Prize" category, for the greatest tonnage recycled, a category in which U.Va. finished first among Virginia schools, with 632,620 pounds last year. It is also vying for the prize in recycling per capita.
Morris said some recycling numbers are down a little this year because U.Va. Dining Services has reduced its food waste, so there is less material to compost.
Student groups, such as Sustainability Advocates, have been promoting the competition, and in some cases have posted volunteers near recycling containers in on-Grounds coffee shops to tell people they can recycle their coffee cup lids and the paper sleeve on the cups. The cups themselves have to be discarded because they have a plastic coating.
"A lot of people don't realize we recycle plastics numbers 1 through 7," Morris said, noting most schools only recycle numbers 1 and 2. "We are one of the best in the country for that."
The weight of U.Va.'s discards varies from week to week. Landfill-bound trash weighs between 75 tons and 96 tons per week and recyclables can reach 54 tons some weeks. But Morris noted that glass is weighed only once every two to three weeks, so some weeks the overall recycling tonnage will be lower than others.
U.Va. will be judged on the total amount of recycling through the competition, so Morris said the school has a chance to surge ahead.
"We're doing well, but we can do better," she said. "I think people can kick it up a couple of notches."
The RecycleMania competition began in 2001 as a challenge between Miami University of Ohio and Ohio University. Today, it is independently owned and governed by the RecycleMania Steering Committee, comprisingrecycling managers from six participating universities. Administrative support for the 2011 RecycleMania Tournament is provided by the national nonprofit, Keep America Beautiful.
For information, visit the website.