ETSU participates in RecycleMania
Published: Sunday, February 24, 2013
Updated: Sunday, February 24, 2013 22:02
Slowly, masses of aluminum cans climb via conveyor. Reaching the end, they tumble over the edge and abruptly land below in a symphony of metallic clinking.
A large press crushes the cans into one large mass, ready to be melted down, re-shaped, re-filled and re-packaged.
This is recycling, the process of re-using something or preparing it to be re-used.
According to the ETSU Department of Sustainability website, ETSU recycled 3.9 tons of aluminum, 50.3 tons of cardboard, 151.1 tons of paper, 23.7 tons of plastic and 52.88 tons of scrap metal from 2010 to 2011.
In an effort to improve its recycling statistics and further educate the student body, ETSU is competing in RecycleMania, an eight-week competition for higher education recycling programs that aims to promote waste-reducing activities to college students.
“I feel that events like RecycleMania are important to show people that even little things like recycling a bottle can make a difference,” said Max Smith, an ETSU Eco Nut. “This event shows students how simple and easy taking care of the world around you can be.”
Each week, participating universities report the amount of recycled and non-recycled waste on their campuses.
Based on that information, universities are ranked, and the university with the highest percentage of recycled materials wins.
“The competition is important because it helps to raise awareness about recycling efforts on campus,” said Mesa Ellington, ETSU eco-ambassador. “It’s [also] a great way to measure our recycling efforts.”
According to the sustainability department’s website, ETSU recycled 122,000 pounds of waste while competing in the RecycleMania Tournament last year.
The university set the goal to recycle 140,000 pounds of waste over the course of the competition this year.
“I think we’re on par for the state of Tennessee,” said Kathleen Moore, director of the department of sustainability. “We definitely could do a lot better. We could get much more engagement, but I’m seeing a steady improvement every year. So, I’m happy about that.”
The department of sustainability is also running another competition for students who live on campus. This competition is sponsored by the housing department and measures the amount of aluminum cans and plastic bottles that residence halls recycle between Feb. 3 and March 31.
The residence hall that recycles the greatest amount will win $500. The second place hall will win $300, and the third place hall will win $100.
The first week’s recycling results were tallied, and West Hall is in the lead for the residence hall challenge with almost two-tenths of a pound of recycling per resident, and there is a tie between Stone and Nell Dossett Halls for second place.
The first week’s results aren’t as large as last year’s, Ellington said.
American University won the RecycleMania tournament last year, and recycled 86 percent of its total waste during the competition. ETSU recycled 22.81 percent.
“The universities that win are typically in areas that have been focused on sustainability for 25 years,” Moore said. “They’re schools in the Northwest and schools in the Northeast where they have very engaged communities. It’s part of their culture. It’s been part of their culture for generations.”
According to the RecycleMania website, the tournament began in 2001 as a competition between Ohio University and Miami University.
Other universities were invited to participate the next year, and participation in the tournament continued to grow from 93 schools participating in 2006 to 630 schools participating in 2011.
ETSU started participating in the tournament in 2010. The university recycled almost 21 percent of its waste and was ranked 185th that year.
Since the first competition, there has been a shift in what comprises the materials in recycling bins at ETSU.
“The paper that we’re recycling has decreased, but we are recovering much more plastic, aluminum and cardboard,” Moore said. “The amounts that we have to send to the landfill have gone down.”
According to the RecycleMania website, the university currently competes in the Benchmark Division.
Competing in this division allows ETSU to informally compare itself against universities in the competition but renders it ineligible to win any of the eight competition categories.
“We don’t get daily weights from the landfill,” Moore said. “We only get them when we get our bill twice a month. In order to participate in the other division, you have to have exact weights every week, and I can’t do that because I can’t get those exact weights.”
Moore’s goal for this year’s competition is to reach 25 percent recycling rate, she said.
“There are a lot of big issues that we can’t really do anything about, like pollution in China, but recycling is something that every person has the ability to do,” Moore said.