More than 40 years after the first Earth Day celebration recycling is commonplace in many communities, yet a surprisingly high amount of recyclables still go in the trash. Many colleges and universities have extensive recycling collection and education programs, yet are challenged in motivating students and staff to participate. By framing recycling in competitive terms, RecycleMania seeks to tap school spirit as a motivator to reach students who may not otherwise respond to environmental messages. In the process, the program works to reinforce the practice of recycling at an age when many college students are forming the habits and values they will carry the rest of their lives.
RecycleMania can have a direct impact on participating campuses. Well over half of campuses surveyed in any given year report a noticeable increase in recycling that is attributable to the school’s participation. This fact is supported by results which show the overall recycling rate (recycling as a percentage of waste stream) for all schools combined typically increases from the first half of the competition to the second (in 2011, the rate increased 1.42% from 24.37% to 27.79%). Participation can also benefit colleges recycling programs by bringing attention and in many cases additional resources to expand their efforts. Surveys of campus program coordinators have shown as many as 75% responding that their participation in RecycleMania drew the attention of campus administrators. As many as one quarter of respondents have credited their participation in gaining additional support to expand collection and education efforts.
Every year, faculty, staff and students participate in the international RecycleMania competition, a 10-week initiative that pushes campus communities to limit waste and strengthen awareness of waste management programs. In 2011, our university finished first in Wisconsin and 14th in the U.S. out of 288 colleges and universities in the Grand Champion category. Our recycling rate exceeded 60%.
Our recycling effort is way above average, but has room to grow. Studies on UW Oshkosh waste show we still have quite a bit of recyclable paper, bottles, cans and cardboard in our trash. Our recycling rate goes up if we put more into recycling and send less trash to the landfill.
Consider the economics: we pay twice as much to send an item to the landfill as to the recycler. So getting the recyclables into the right bin is about the money -- and keeping UW Oshkosh affordable for our students.
Recyclemania is a chance to remind ourselves of what we recycle from public areas and workspaces:
-- Paper (mixed office paper, newspaper, paperboard boxes, paperbacks)
-- Cans and Bottles (aluminum, plastic #1 and #2, glass)
-- Cardboard (corrugated, not coated with wax)
We also recycle metal, wood, toner cartridges, rechargeable batteries, electronics and other items through different channels. Some of these items are illegal to send to Wisconsin landfills, so please contact Facilities Management or the Sustainability Office for recycling advice.