University Participates In Recycling Competition

Boston College joins over 500 colleges across the U.S. and Canada in the 2014 RecycleMania competition, a campus initiative led by the Office of Sustainability in coordination with EcoPledge and a student group from the Jenks Leadership Program.

“The competition is a good way to discuss and learn about recycling,” said Liza Degenring, A&S ’16, in an email. “I have noticed, as a student and the president of EcoPledge, that a lot of students don’t know what to recycle and what not to. I think that there needs to be more education on how BC recycles (single-stream) and why it is important to recycle. RecycleMania starts that conversation!”

During the eight-week competition, which runs from Feb. 2 to Mar. 29, colleges report the amount of recycling and trash collected each week. Rankings are updated each week as well, allowing colleges to compare their performances throughout the competition.

The competition categories are Grand Champion, Per Capita Classic, Gorilla, Waste Minimization, Paper, Corrugated Cardboard, Bottles & Cans, and Food Service Organics. The winning school in each category receives an award made out of recyclable materials and hosts the category’s trophy for the next year.

“It’s not about the rankings, really,” said Sustainability Program Director Robert Pion in an email. “The competition provides us with an opportunity to raise awareness about some sustainability practices in which we are engaged on the BC campus. It will hopefully prompt students, staff, and faculty to think twice about throwing something away that should be recycled.”

Pion is also a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) accredited professional.

In last year’s competition, BC placed 50th in the Grand Champion category with a 43 percent recycling rate and sixth in the Per Capita Classic category with 48 pounds recycled per person. The 2013 competition had 523 participating colleges, and 90.8 million pounds of materials were recycled, reducing 121,436 metric tons of greenhouse gas.

“We have been successful in this competition in the past, and our overall recycling rate for the entire year last year was 41 percent,” Pion said. “That’s good, but we can do better, and we are working to find ways to make recycling more convenient and easier for our campus community.”

Anyone in the BC community can participate by recycling and using fewer disposable items such as the black to-go utensils in the dining halls. At the end of each week, the University measures the weights of the recycled materials and trash to be reported to RecycleMania.

“The goal of the competition is to make recycling a bigger focus at Boston College, especially among the student body,” said Andrew Ireland, A&S ’14, in an email. “A lot of the trash generated on campus is made up of items that could be recycled, and this competition is a great opportunity to draw people’s attention to this issue and have people think about where their water bottle or soda cans end up when they throw them out.

“Competitions are a great way to change what people do, and we hope this year we can make a big improvement in our campus’ recycling habits.”

Ireland and a group of students in the Jenks Leadership Program were assigned to come up with a service project that they were passionate about or could make a real difference with, either on campus or in the Boston area. After brainstorming, the group decided that sustainability at BC was something they all thought was important and feasible, Ireland said.

“It was the issue we as a group felt the most passionate about, so we started looking for projects we could focus our efforts on,” Ireland said. “We met with Mr. Pion, who gave us several options, and we thought that RecycleMania was a very worthwhile project to focus on and that we could come up with ways to get more people aware of the competition than in past years. Hopefully our results at the end of the eight weeks prove us right.”

In order to increase awareness of the competition, Ireland and his group ran a campus-wide contest on Facebook in which students submitted designs for a promotional poster for RecycleMania and voted on their favorite one. The winning poster, as well as the official RecycleMania posters, will be posted around campus. The competition itself will also be on Facebook, where the weekly standings will be posted. They can also be found on the Sustainability Office website.

EcoPledge has also collaborated with the Jenks Leadership Program group to create an upcoming event for RecycleMania. Resident Assistants and Resident Directors are also helping to promote the event through social media.

RecycleMania was first held in January 2001 as a competition between Ohio University and Miami University of Ohio to encourage their students to recycle more.

“Boston College first participated in 2005, so our involvement is just augmenting the visibility of the competition on campus,” Ireland said.