OSU takes top regional spot for recycling

An OSU student worker sorts through recycled materials at OSU. (photo courtesy OSU recycling)

An OSU student worker sorts through recycled materials at OSU. (photo courtesy OSU recycling)

The results are in for Recyclemania, the nationwide competition between universities to see who can recycle the most, which took place Jan. 18 through March 28. OSU took top spots in the state, ranking No. 1 among the seven Oregon colleges competing.

In the Per Capita Classic (competition for the highest weight of recyclables per person) OSU ranked No. 1 among all Oregon and Washington schools, and in the Gorilla Prize category (competition for the highest cumulative weight recycled) OSU ranked No. 1 in Oregon and No. 2 in the Pacific Northwest.

This year 510 schools competed from all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia and Canada, collectively recycling 69.4 million pounds. When taking into account all 10 weeks (including the first two, which were trial weeks not considered in final rankings), OSU recycled 385,132 pounds (192.6 tons). Diverting this material from the landfill not only helps the environment, but also saves OSU money on waste disposal.

“Another benefit from competing in Recyclemania is the increased awareness about recycling and waste prevention on campus,” said Andrea Norris, Recycling Program assistant and coordinator of outreach for the competition. “By putting on events, displaying results in the Memorial Union Quad, and making it our goal to recycle as much as possible, we were able to reach more people and keep waste prevention on the top of people’s minds.”

In 2008, OSU competed in the Partial Campus Division, only weighing recyclables from residence halls and UHDS buildings, whereas this year new competition rules required schools to account for their entire campus population, including satellite campuses and offices. Therefore, the total weight of recyclables increased from 2008 (from 216,896 to 385,132 pounds), but per capita weights decreased (from 61.83 to 13.12 pounds per person) because the residence hall produces the majority of the recycling from OSU.

With the new requirement to collect data from the whole campus came much extra work for Campus Recycling staff. Everything put in recycle bins across campus had to be weighed, recorded, and reported each week, and staff stepped up to the challenge.
“It takes a large amount of student labor to collect recycling and I would like to praise our staff for taking on these extra responsibilities,” said Pete Lepre, Recycling Program Manager.

Campus Recycling also received help from student volunteers from the geosciences department’s course Environmental Conservation and Sustainability, who helped promote the competition by putting on a kickoff event on Jan. 20 and collecting recycling at the OSU men’s basketball game against the University of Oregon on Jan. 31.

Next year Campus Recycling‘s goal is to increase the per capita recycling rate.

“We are also exploring the feasibility of weighing all our trash so that we can begin competing in the Grand Champion category, striving for the highest ratio of recycling to trash, and Waste Minimization category, striving for the least amount of waste produced, trash or recycling,” said Norris.

Campus Recycling’s efforts support OSU’s commitment to sustainability by conserving natural resources, reducing waste, and decreasing greenhouse gas emissions from solid waste. Campus Recycling is currently making an effort to become more sustainable in other ways such as consolidating routes to save gas, investigating commingled recycling in the residence halls, working with Allied Waste to begin collecting organic material for composting, and sponsoring educational events such as Earth Week.

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