RecycleMania encourages eco-friendly practices

Over 300 colleges and universities. 46 states. Two countries. This is RecycleMania 2018.

RecycleMania is an annual 8-week competition encouraging schools to be mindful of their waste.

“Using fair and friendly competition, RecycleMania provides tools and opportunities that inspire, empower and mobilize colleges and universities to benchmark and improve efforts to reduce or eliminate waste,” reads the mission statement on the competition’s website,

The competition does not award prizes in order to prevent fraudulent results. Instead, they reward “bragging rights” for the winners. Those who have made significant improvement over past years are also recognized.

Guilford College has participated in RecycleMania every year since 2010 except for 2017. Guilford won first in North Carolina three times and has placed in the top 20 nationally three times.

In 2014 and 2015, Visiting Lecturer for Environmental Studies Bronwyn Tucker, who was the sustainability coordinator at the time, ran the program. Tucker found the event valuable for awareness efforts.

“It’s shocking to witness how much waste is produced by a relatively small group of people,” wrote Tucker in an email interview with The Guilfordian. “I’m most proud of the waste dispersion from reuse and overall reduction in consumption.”

David Petree, director of environmental sustainability, is managing the College’s competition this year.

“RecycleMania really gives a platform or opportunity for a college to learn about how well their recycling program is or isn’t working,” said Petree. “The measurement is in our diversion rate. How much of our waste-stream is being diverted from the landfill?”

Guilford students measure the amount of waste a couple times a week, looking at the amounts in both the recycling dumpsters and the landfill dumpsters. They then report the waste and recycling ratio to the contest.

Junior Will Bryer, one of the work-study students working on the project, finds value in the program.

“Recycling isn’t pointless,” said Bryer. “It’s not to just make you feel good.”

According to the Environmental Protection Agency, on average, Americans waste 4.4 pounds of trash every day and compost or recycle 1.51 pounds per day. Guilford’s sustainability efforts include composting, community gardening, being involved in this competition and more.

“The biggest thing that anyone can do, whether in RecycleMania or otherwise, is to find out what can be recycled,” Petree said. “There are the three R’s. Reduce, reuse and recycle, in that order.”

The contest also examines food waste and compost levels, which Guilford has been working on initiatives for. Guilford’s Meriwether Godsey dining services donates leftover dining hall food six days of the week, delivering it to organizations that fight food insecurity, such as Church Under the Bridge.

There are ways students, too, can prevent food-related waste.

“Don’t put food on your plate that you’re not going to eat,” said Petree. “And never use straws.”

Making use of the recycling cans that are next to nearly every trash can on campus is a primary way Guilford encourages students to consider what can and cannot be recycled.

“A lot of times there are things that people put in the landfill that could definitely go in the recycling,” said Bryer.

As of Feb. 18, Guilford is placed fifth in the per-capita classic category, which measures the diversion rate.

“At the end of the day, it’s not about winning,” said Bryer. “It’s about seeing how well the Guilford community is at recycling. It’s about raising awareness.”

The competition will continue until March 31, and the final results will be announced on April 16.