Recycle Mania is a non-profit organization that sponsors a contest among colleges to encourage recycling. Their boards of directors are members of various universities with 350 schools participating from 48 states. Categories include waste minimization, recyclables per capita, bottles & cans. Outstanding among the participants are the following five colleges.
Valencia College in Orlando Florida has an enrollment of 42,600 students. Valencia’s recycling program has been in the works for about five years. Beginning in 2007 the school began collecting paper products, and between February 2007 and September 2008, they had processed 43 tons of materials. In 2011 they were second in the Recycle Mania contest. In 2012 and 2013, they won first place in the waste minimization category. Administration, students, and faculty all participate in the sustainable effort. The school encourages the students to use water fountains rather than bottled water, and they conserve energy by shutting down heating and cooling units after hours, buying green products, planting trees, and creating a smoke-free campus.
At Kalamazoo College, it is the students that run the recycling program. Traveling around the campus in two golf carts volunteers collect the bins and take them to a sorting location. The center of their recycling program is the “Bat Cave” named for a preserved bat once found there. Bikes are repaired and loaned out, and used school supplies are stocked at the cave and recycled. Food waste gets hauled to a pig farm in the area. They are consistent winners, taking first place in two categories in 2008 and first in bottles and cans in 2012.
In 2011 Harvard topped all other Ivy League schools with an incredible 8400 tons of recycled material. In 2009 they initiated a program in which all recyclables get discarded in the same container, and this increased the recyclables collected. They also run various programs such as the collection of trash and recyclables at football games and tailgate parties. By setting up trash bins throughout the stadium during games, they can collect thousands of gallons of recyclable material. They also save rainwater, which saves 25,000 gallons of water each year. Harvard is also one of the few colleges to offer Styrofoam recycling on campus. No need to ban Styrofoam here!
Georgia Tech also runs a game day tailgating program. Hundreds of volunteers hand out trash bags to tailgaters before the games. Folks in attendance inside the stadium may fill the bags and leave them to be picked up later by staff. In the 2015 football season, they topped themselves by collecting 34 tons of recyclables. The school runs an AWARE program in which students and faculty participate. Waste and recycle bins are placed in ten buildings across the campus, and the students and staff are responsible for the collecting and emptying them into the large bins. Georgia Tech has won numerous awards for their recycling efforts.
American University in Washington DC has been striving for zero waste since the founding of their sustainability program in 2009. They have created one of the most efficient college recycling programs. There is a recycle destination for every bit of paper, cans, glass, cardboard, plastic as well as electronic equipment, lubricants, tires, furniture, grease, and food. Winners of the 2012 Recycle Mania contest, American University beat 604 other colleges.
Americans are recycling twice as much now as they did twenty years ago. Our colleges are showing us how much more can get accomplished with creative and innovative recycling programs.