February 3, 2012 — The University of Virginia is getting pumped up to compete in RecycleMania this year – and to defend its "best video" crown.
The contest, an annual competition among colleges and universities sponsored by the College and University Recycling Council, measures how schools handle waste, with categories for total recycling, recycling-per-person and waste reduction, among others. So far, more than 500 colleges and universities in the United States and Canada have entered the competition, 21 of them from Virginia.
U.Va.'s participation will kick off with an event on Feb. 9 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m., with prizes and literature on recycling.
"We have reserved the McIntire Amphitheater at lunchtime to get a lot of people involved," said Nina Morris, sustainability outreach representative for Facilities Management. "This is the first year we are competing in all the categories, because we did so well last year."
Last year, U.Va. won the "Gorilla Prize" for the Virginia schools, with 653,880 pounds of total recycling collected during a 10-week period. The school placed third among the 10 competing schools in the Atlantic Coast Conference and 12th among the 363 schools competing for the national Gorilla Prize.
U.Va. students also came in first in the competition's inaugural video contest with a one-minute, student-produced tale depicting how much U.Va. loves recycling. A group of students is working on a new video to defend U.Va.'s crown, Morris said.
Bruce "Sonny" Beale, director of U.Va. Recycling, said the University is currently recycling about 47 percent of its municipal solid waste. He wants to hit 50 percent by the end of the calendar year.
"RecycleMania helps people focus," he said. "It is something they can do and it measures results, so they can see what they accomplish."
He said the University is also working reducing its total amount of trash.
"Students can do this through not buying bottled water, saving the cardboard boxes they used when they moved in or reducing the number of pages they print," Beale said.
U.Va. will compete in all of the contest's categories this year: grand champion, which measures the schools recycling rate compared to its total trash output; the per-capita challenge, which measures combined recycling per person; waste minimization, which gauges the amount of recycling and trash produced per person; and the Gorilla Prize, which measures the gross tonnage of recyclables. In addition there are four separate categories of targeted materials, including paper, cardboard, glass and cans, and organic waste. U.Va. will also compete in a newly added category that measures consumer electronics recycling.
Incentives for students will be available this year, such as reusable mugs and take-away containers. Morris said rankings will be posted weekly on a special "RecycleMania at U.Va." website and on Twitter, so students can compare how well U.Va. is doing compared with other institutions.
"We want to have weekly giveaways with fun prizes," she said. "We want to make Grounds come alive with RecycleMania."
RecycleMania started in 2001 as a head-to-head contest between Ohio University and Miami University 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.
— By Matt Kelly