April 20, 2011 — The University of Virginia placed first in the state for overall recycling in this year's RecycleMania competition.
U.Va. received the Gorilla Prize for the commonwealth, with 653,880 pounds of total recycling collected during a 10-week period. The school placed third among the 10 competing schools from the Atlantic Coast Conference and 12th among the 630 schools competing for the national Gorilla Prize.
RecycleMania, a project of the College and University Recycling Council, started in 2001 as a head-to-head contest between Ohio University and Miami University of Ohio to encourage recycling on campus. Since then, the 10-week competition has grown to include more than 600 colleges and universities vying for prizes to reduce their environmental impact. U.Va. has been competing in RecycleMania since 2008.
The schools compete in broad categories including total amount recycled, as well as specific categories such as paper and glass recycling and the amount of recycling per person. This year a video competition was added.
"We did extremely well this year," said Nina Morris, sustainability outreach coordinator for Facilities Management, "especially considering the number of schools participating has increased greatly since last year."
U.Va. also placed first among ACC schools and 15th in the nation for recycling paper, with 11.52 pounds per person. It was second in total recycling per capita in the ACC with 21.05 pounds per person, coming in behind Boston College. The University finished third in the state for per capita recycling, behind Virginia Military Institute and Roanoke College.
"Our results demonstrate the level of commitment U.Va. has to recycling and the pride we take in making U.Va. a greener, healthier community," Morris said.
Bruce "Sonny" Beale, director of the University's recycling program, said that students enter U.Va. with more awareness of recycling than their predecessors.
"Some students actually look at a college's sustainability efforts in making their choice," he said. "Students 10 years ago did not have the opportunities to be taught about protecting natural resources when they were younger."
He said because of this environmental consciousness, U.Va. has been able to reduce its recycling and municipal trash levels. In calendar year 2009, the University disposed of 4,968 tons of trash and collected 3,845 tons of recyclables. In calendar year 2010, it disposed of 4,681 tons of trash and collected 3,478 tons of recyclables, while the University itself expanded physically and increased enrollment.
"The waste minimization is dramatic," Beale said. "We diverted about 300 tons of material in each category. That is where the cost savings is. If there is less coming in, there is less going out."
He said the reduction is the result of more prudent buying decisions and a move on the part of industry to reduce packaging.
Based on votes cast at RecycleMania's Facebook page, U.Va. students also finished first in RecycleMania's video category with a short film promoting recycling. The students won $500, which will be used to promote the next RecycleMania.
— By Matt Kelly